The oldest neighbourhood in Soweto is called Kliptown, and it is famous for being the location of the Congress of the People, where 3 000 people assembled in 1955 to draft the Freedom Charter. Later, it served as the framework for the liberal constitution of South Africa. More history is available. The location of their meeting was designated a national historic site, and in 2005, 50 years after the signing of the Freedom Charter, Thabo Mbeki lit a torch of freedom to designate the area as the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication. It is presently a park that includes a marketplace with shops, offices, and a hotel. Additionally, Kliptown has undergone an R375 million makeover as part of a significant effort to redevelop the mostly run-down community.
A museum about the Congress of the People is located at the edge of the square and is open to the public without charge. The museum is located where a former hardware store that belonged to the Jades family, an Indian family, had stood. Congress has a multiracial past. Even if there isn’t much information about the museum in the typical Johannesburg travel book, it is nevertheless lovely and well worth a visit.
SKY is a youth centre in Kliptown that assists local abandoned youngsters (Soweto Kliptown Youth). There is a palpable sense of multicultural integration and tolerance in Kliptown. I observed white folks wandering about freely in a squatter camp like they were in Melville, as one blogger on Jhb Live put it. Take a tour of Soweto that includes Kliptown to see it for yourself.
History of Kliptown
The first urban community in the greater Johannesburg area to house people of all races was Kliptown, which was founded in 1903. It is a vast assemblage of communities with a strong unofficial business community. Shopping is done by many Sowetans in Kliptown. However, Kliptown has been neglected for years, and the majority of its old structures are in poor condition. Some homes still employ the bucket system, and there is no water-borne sewage system.
The Kliptown Community Development Forum lobbied for years before the significant provincial and municipal funding. The forum, which was created in 1997 to encourage economic development and better housing in the area, is composed of local council members, community leaders, and the city housing department. Gene Duiker, a well-known local figure and forum participant, is proud of Kliptown, which he claims is more of a town than a township. Kliptown, in the words of Duiker, “is cosmopolitan in nature, a melting pot of various cultures.”
The project’s centrepiece is the construction of a monument at Freedom Square, the location where a coalition of anti-apartheid organizations adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955. Thousands of people gathered at Kliptown’s central square to create an alternative vision to the oppressive apartheid state’s rules. The meeting was dispersed by the police on the second day, but not before the charter was accepted as a statement of principles. For the following 50 years, it would serve as the pillar of African National Congress doctrine.
Already designated as a National Heritage monument is the square. A photographic display has been constructed by the “Kliptown Our Town Trust” and will be moved to Freedom Square once it is finished. The exhibition, which captures the political and social scene of Kliptown, is currently displayed at the Kliptown Education and Training Centre, a historic structure that was formerly a township store.