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Last Updated: Monday, 16 February, 2004, 17:06 GMT
Soweto's slow path to recovery
By Hugh Sykes
BBC correspondent in Soweto

Dolly Hlope's strawberry jam is delicious. She makes it from strawberries grown in her own garden - in Soweto.

children in Soweto
Some shacks have been replaced with better homes and roads
You can taste it for yourself if you stay in her Soweto bed-and-breakfast guest house.

South Africa really has changed.

Ten years ago, in the weeks leading up to the first democratic elections, Soweto was not a place where a stranger would wander about - especially if they were white; white people in Soweto were regarded with suspicion, and often assumed to be members of the hated apartheid security forces.

But now, there are several guest houses in Soweto, some smart new restaurants, small shopping malls with security guards, and a new Checkers supermarket.

'Apartheid demons'

And one very good reason to visit Soweto is the powerful Hector Pieterson museum.

Hector Pieterson museum.
Hector Pieterson remains a symbol of the fight against apartheid
Hector was the 13-year-old boy shot dead by a white policeman in June 1976, during a demonstration against the use of Afrikaans as the teaching language in schools.

Hector Pieterson's death was a turning point.

Suddenly the world was confronted with harrowing photographs of a dead child with blood coming from wounds on his head.

And South Africa was confronted with the reaction.

Nearly 20 years later, the brutal system of ruthlessly enforced racial segregation had been dismantled.

The demons of apartheid were soon replaced with the forgiving and conciliatory spirit of Nelson Mandela.

Shanty towns

Towns and townships amalgamated under single administrations, schools were desegregated, and an assault began on the grinding poverty endured by the vast majority of the people.

Since 1994 hundreds of thousands of new homes have been built, and life is slowly improving for many of the most deprived.
Shanty town
Some shanties still remain close to affluent city centres

Shocking, overcrowded shanty towns still remain close to affluent city centres like Johannesburg and Durban, with public water taps and public toilets and no electricity.

But in some of the worst areas, many shacks have been cleared away and replaced with homes with water and electricity, with proper roadways and street lighting.

But one enemy is still dangerously at large - HIV/Aids.

Organisations like the South African Medical Research Council and the Actuarial Society of South Africa estimate that between four and six million citizens are HIV-positive.

Hugh Sykes travels around South Africa
Hugh visits the country ten years on from the first democratic elections

Hugh Sykes in Soweto
Soweto was originally created by whites from Johannesburg afraid of being "swamped" by Africans

Hugh Sykes in Bothaville and Vredefort, Free State
Hugh discovers white farmers in South Africa are murdered in far higher numbers than in Zimbabwe

Hugh Sykes in KwaZulu Natal
Hugh examines President Mbeki's promise of houses "tomorrow" for people living in shacks

Hugh Sykes in Mashaeng-Fourie, Free State
Hugh visits one of the first white towns which merged with its black township, forming one place with one name

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