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Out of the ghetto: the South African dream

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-04-17

Almost 20 years after the end of apartheid, townships are still reminders of the segregation in South Africa. But society is slowly changing, and some township residents are now escaping to achieve their dreams of success.

Every day, tens of thousands of people catch the train from the huge sprawling townships of Soweto to Johannesburg to go to work.

 

Under apartheid, Soweto was a home for black workers, who serviced the city's white neighbourhoods. Fifteen years after democracy, many still make the journey. But now they can hope for a better future.

And when comes to dreams, Stephen Nale is living one. He grew up in Soweto. Now he owns a BMW dealership with a 90-person staff and has a turnover of more than twenty million dollars a year.

Black companies are booming thanks to the government's policy of "black economic empowerment," which aims to transfer financial power to the black majority. As a consequence, a black middle class has emerged, to which Stephen Nale belongs.

Each weekend, Stephen hits the road with his son, leaving the city far behind to get back to his roots. Gliding along the highway in his glittering car, Stephen turns heads. When someone does well in Soweto, everyone is proud. They can identify with those who have succeeded. Soweto is slowly changing - you can see it in the little shops, or the first luxury hotel.

 

But the reality of the ghetto still remains difficult. Many inhabitants don't have water or electricity. Crime, prostitution, and AIDS are all part of daily life in Soweto, despite the South African government's efforts. Since 1994, around three milliion houses have been built and offered to poor families.

 

In this difficult context, local councils have a very important role to play in fighting for better living conditions. Meetings of local associations are a chance for residents to discuss problems in Soweto and draw up battle plans for solving them.

 

In South Africa, things are changing: Soweto's children are becoming dream-makers.

 

Date created : 2009-04-17