Soweto Walking Tour

Soweto Walking Tour, as the visitor calls for a ‘walking tour’ Taste of Africa responds with the real deal, 8 km over six hours, to 9 km, over seven hours, plus time for a beer when you reach the end line.

This walk covers Orlando East, the oldest official Township in Soweto, 30 minutes in an informal/semi-formal settlement, lunch at the Nancefield Hostel, (If vegetarian, buy your lunch while in Orlando East) a walk through Dube, the once elite, still elite housing area, and pass through Orlando West, returning to Orlando East, 9 km.


For transfer purposes, our prices are quoted ex Melville, our home base:

R 600 per person,  ex Melville base.   (single supplement of R600)

We encourage our visitors, who have their own transport, to use the self-drive option, here the guide, on appointment, will meet you at a BP Service Station, 500m off the N1 Highway, and take you to their home, where you will safely park your car, and proceed with the regular visit.

Price Comparison with the Soweto Tour:

Taste of Africa’s Walk & Local taxi visit, where greater distances are covered, thanks to the taxi, costs R 500 per person, and excludes the local taxi fare, approx R 60 depending on trips used. Comparative Cost R 560, plus lunch and museums.

The Soweto Walking Tour, requires more effort and energy from the guide, therefore, the guide will be compensated for this by the slightly increased price.

Soweto Walking Tour Self Transfer Option;

Self drive option, R 400 per person,  (single supplement of R 200).

BP Service Station, Taste of Africa’s meeting point, by arrangement only.

Should the visitor reside in Melville, or other areas accessible to the Rea Vaya bus route,  Taste of Africa will assist with directions.

For rates outside of this standard options. please enquire from Taste of Africa.

Excluded is Meals for you and your guide, R50,  plus museum fees.


LAP 1:

We start out tour in Orlando East, officially the oldest Township on Soweto, dating back to 1932.

For the Purpose of the Soweto Walking Tour, we aim to complete this area by 10:30 and cover approx 2,5 km.

Rich inHistory, thanks to the Soweto Leader / Elder James Sofasonke Mpanza, and ANC / PAC political meetings: .

Cedric’s 2005 shebeen theatre is worth a read, it will give you an insight into Sofasonke and his people:

Soweto tour, visit with the respected leader, James Sofasonke Manzi's history.
Soweto tour, visit with the respected leader, James Sofasonke Mpanza’s history.

When we start our day in Orlando East, and our target will be to visit with John Mahapa, one of our ‘living museum’ heritage sites in Passport to Soweto.

Cedric defines John Mahapa as “From Boy Scout, to Freedom Fighter”

John, self-politicised as a junior school Boy-Scout, is part of the ANC and then split as an Africanist, arrested at 20 years old as part of the anti-pass protest, and then sentenced to Robben Island for 7 years in 1963.

Meeting John, changes Cedric’s life, as he sees South Africa from a different insight.

Taste of Africa has arranged that our visitor pays R 30 per person, from the interaction with John.

Soweto tour, typical Orlando East and many young children
Soweto tour, typical Orlando East and many young children

Follow Soweto’s history, from the early origins through to 1976.

Covered in more detail in Passport to Soweto, is Nelson Mandela’s links to Orlando East, and the Mbube Mdingi post, is worth a read;

Follow Soweto’s history, from the early origins through to 1976.

This Orlando East Township will take a few hours, all magic.

One of the most damaging pieces of legislation passed in South Africa was the 1913 Native Land Actthe greatest separation between the South African black and whites.

The Native Urban Areas Act, 1923 required Urban authorities to accommodate all black people that worked in their area, in Temporary accommodation. In 1928 the Johannesburg City Council established the Non European Affairs Department, (N.E.A.D.) and the Orlando East Township was their first project.

The small red brick houses that are seen in Orlando East are typical of the 3500 houses built between 1932 and 1934. It was only recently that I took notice of the different building materials used during this process. We have the red brick that is synonymous with the perception of the local whites when describing this development, yet closer scrutiny shows that they used the red brick, a slightly yellow/red brick, we also have two grades of cinder bricks and then the large cement block. The original houses consisted of two roomed houses, three roomed houses, and a number of them are semi-detached. When first built, the house only had one front door and the second doors were only added later. The enclosed porch that you see on that small ‘red brick’ house was first permitted in the 1950’s, subject to motivation and approval by the council.

As a South African, I could not believe, just how much development, had taken place in Soweto. My perception still had all houses in Soweto, as rows of these little red brick houses. I do not think that many white South Africans, would ever give credit to just how many of these houses have been developed. Not only developed, but developed on properties that they only rented, without having title deeds to these properties. They used their own money, and did not have access to loan finance, through the financial systems. I think they still find it difficult, to obtain financial assistance today. Where extensions take place, they build little by little, taking years to complete, living in the original house, and often the original house, remains fairly intact, in the inside of the completed house.

Us whites, were forever boasting, about what we achieved, during the years of ‘isolation’, the period when we had restricted sport contact, performing arts contact, and had to buy oil through the back-door, what an achievement. But look at the Sowetan community, just look at what they have achieved, while in isolation, and they are still in isolation.

Rathebe Street, off Mooki Street:

This setting is magic, the red-brick houses with shacks of various shapes and sizes, different materials, the odd bit of colour.

An Original Match-Box House with a typically neat garden.

Just walking up and down the streets of Orlando will give you an experience that you will never forget.

By now you would have discovered that the community do not mind you taking photos,often calling out ‘shoot me’ to encourage a photo, it is because you are walking the streets and become part of the community that they welcome your presence. I do not suggest that you request permission, but should you see that some-one is reluctant, wave an apology, and back-off.

Always be prepared to show the locals the photo that you have taken, if you have a digital camera. Not only do the enjoy seeing the photo, but the children love the close contact with our guests. They will touch you and feel you.

While we are on that subject, I do not encourage our guests giving to children, or for that matter, adult beggars. Rather buy some fruit; or other items from hawkers. You will get an opportunity to donate to the youth, or aids groups, that we pass through. Also, on a few sites, we have individuals, making their time and homes available to you. Here a small donation is welcome.

If you feel obliged to give to the children, or the many adult beer drinkers, who will be pressing you for a few rand, it only makes it more difficult, for the guests who follow to get close to the community. The beggars start to shield you from interaction with the magic.

Soweto Tour, our favourite hardware store
Soweto Tour, our favourite hardware store


I was impressed with the cleanliness, of the streets and the properties. Most of the side-walks are swept and so neat, and many of these gardens are so nice. To this cleanliness we cab add the attention that they people give to their clothes and selves.

If I was a first-time visitor to Soweto, with no guide, to pull me around Soweto, as I entered Rathebe Street, off Mooki Street, I would just cool here for some time. Walk slowly, stop at the hardware store; sit down next to a local, just talk, and become part of the magic.

As you walk past one of the properties in Orlando East, the small two roomed red brick house, is often surrounded by eight to thirteen tin shacks, with hardly a passage to move through. Do not be afraid to accept an invitation to stop and talk to one of the communities.

Orlando East 94 year-old Gogo, Matriarch to large group.
Orlando East 94 year-old Gogo, Matriarch to large group.

The home owner, the occupant of the main house, rents a piece of ground out to the sub-tenant. They are probably paying between R 200 and R 250 per month. The home owner; possibly receives R2000 to R 3000 per month, towards her living costs. The problem however; is that the sub-tenants, do not pay for the electricity that they are using. Today, the council are building two rooms, in the back-yard, and encouraging the tenants to move off the property. Apparently, the economics of saving electricity; will warrant the investment.

Thirteen, maybe fifteen families, on a piece of ground, 15m X 20m, the original two-roomed house, not changed in 70 years, accept for the porch that was enclosed in the 1950s, and accommodates a sub-tenant, and the thirteen shacks of various shapes and sizes, that are build around the perimeter fences of the property.

In the far left corner of the property, no grass here, just the very red soil, is the one outside toilet, with the only source of water, the one water tap feeding off the toilet system.

The occasions, when a few quarts of beer are being consumed, by young men, and sometimes the older woman, sitting in the early morning sun, maybe playing drafts, or just chatting; is a magic experience for the visitors.

Always a friendly welcome for all, interaction between the groups, smiles, and confusion, as they all jockey for the opportunity, to have a few words with the visitors.

What is not obvious to the visitor, during this brief excitement, is just how structured life on these properties is. With thirteen families, and possibly 40 people moving in and out the commune, the toilet hygiene, and use of the washing facility, washing lines, and such, all needs to be shared and strictly controlled. Add to this the fact that there are five different language groups / indigenous groups, living in this commune; this commune; is an example to the rest of the world, on how to live in harmony. 

The little children, moving around the property, seem to belong to the community, and it is difficult to distinguish, the mother child relationships.

LAP 2:

As we exit Orlando East, using the back roads to Nancefield Hostel, we pass through and visit and interact, in a low cost housing development, for 30 minutes, one of the few initiatives where the government developed an informal squatter community,

Then, with informal developments on both sides of us, we cross the rail line at the Nancefield Station, then through the open spaces to Nancefield Hostel for lunch. 2,1 km, 12:00.

Soweto Walking Tour, Nettie, our barometer, testing difficulty and safety.
Soweto Walking Tour, Nettie, our barometer, testing difficulty and safety.
Soweto Walking Tour, informal development.
Soweto Walking Tour, informal development.
Soweto Walking Tour, informal development.
Soweto Walking Tour, informal development.
Soweto Walking Tour, option to capture Tower Pics
Soweto Walking Tour, option to capture Tower Pics



The Nancefield Hostel, one of eleven such hostels built in the 1950s, to accommodate migrant male workers in the Johannesburg area.

There was one female hostel, situated between Orlando West and Meadowlands.

Prior to 1994, 3 000 males were accommodated in this Hostel, that stretches on both sides of the road. Today, family groups are accommodated, and we believe the occupants total 13 000.

From 1988 to 1992, the hostels were used by the system, to destabilise the local community, Zulu’s of the IFP group, attacked non-Zulus in the area. This was all part of the black-on-black violence, which some would claim was backed by the National Party, and targeted the youth of the PAC and other Black Consciousness groups.

Today, many non-Zulu’s would still keep away from the hostels.

Very few Zulus in the Hostel area, are able to speak English, part of the Colonisers suppression. I believe the English, used Welsh speaking people, to learn the Zulu language, and off that basis, the employers language skills were developed. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, all Employers, White and Indian, speak a form of Zulu, restricting the rural Zulu from needing to speak English.

If you move through the gap just past the toilets, keep right, and enter the first door on your right, into a games room and small shop area, ask the Sithole twins who own the shop if you ay have a look at their accommodation, you could buy beers and cold drinks here in compensation for their hospitality.

The hostel buildings, are divided into four sleeping rooms, of different sizes, a communal kitchen / living area, and toilets.

Do not venture deeper into the Hostel area.

The hostel conditions are in terrible condition, the occupants wanting the family units upgraded, and the Government, has intention to upgrade, but the end product, particularly in relation to cost, is far from reaching consensus.

Soweto Walking Tour Nancefield Hostel the closest your will get to Africa
Soweto Walking Tour Nancefield Hostel the closest your will get to Africa

Muthwa Butchery:

Muthwa runs a very successful business, feeding hundreds per day, behind the stoves you will find a selection of cooked meat, from head meat to the innards, heart, liver, kidney, and pieces that I have never been exposed to.

In the shop, they will have a beef stew, sometimes chicken, served with pap, (their traditional porridge) and you can but a tomato and onion relish on the side.

We love to buy meat to braai, they sell various cuts to beef, including heart, liver, and sausage/wors, that you can braai yourself, Cedric prefers to use the staff member tasked with assisting in the bracing, and he contributed R 20 for his service.

Buy this with a small helping of pap, R 10, and tomato relish. Your meal seldom costs more than R 35 per plate.

Beers are available to buy, both in the Muthwa shop, and also in the little store, run by the Sithole brothers.

Nancefield Hostel Cedric favourites lunch venue
Nancefield Hostel Cedric favourites lunch venue

Comfort Information:

When braai-ing, you will receive your meal in a polystyrene plate, look after it, you will need to eat out of the plate, on occasions, every time Cedric eats there, he is provided with a wooden plate, one aspect that he would object to on principle, but has yet, has not.

This is Africa, and they cater for groups of people, eating from one communal plate, using your fingers. Should you have an issue, please ask the shop for a spoon.

Between the kitchen area, and the eating area, there is a sink, where you can wash your hands.

When you have cooked your meat, there will be a knife around, attached to an anchor of sorts, where you cut the meat into chunk size portions, Cedric would ask the braai assistant to please cut his meat, his hands are too soft to do so without a fork available.

The salt will be in a plastic bottle, also anchored, so pour a little into your hand, and set on a corner of the meat plate. When washing your hands, if you require a cloth, please ask one of the ladies working there.

This is your closest that you will get to Africa, while in South Africa.

Soweto Walking Tour Nancefield Hostel the closest your will get to Africa
Soweto Walking Tour Nancefield Hostel the closest your will get to Africa

LAP 3:

We leave our ‘Africa’ visit behind,  13:00, head for Orlando West,Hector Pietersen Museum, via Dube, 2,70 km. 13:45.

We take a cross-country walk through a Community Vegetable Development garden, and depending on the season and weather conditions, the experience changes, always of interest.

Dube, the first ‘upmarket housing development’ where families with financial means, forcibly removed from Johannesburg, entered into a 99 year-lease agreement for a property, and subject to strict control clauses, were allowed to build their own homes.

Many of these homes, are typical of the suburban homes built during the 1950s and 1960s.

Soweto Walking Tour Dube the 1980s tourist route,
Soweto Walking Tour Dube the 1980s tourist route,

In the 1980s. Dube was the tourist area, where the tourism industry drove international visitors through the upmarket homes, to show off the achievements of the Sowetans.

Soweto Walking Tour Dube the 1980s tourist route,
Soweto Walking Tour Dube the 1980s tourist route,

At this stage, we have arrived a Hector Pietersen Museum, 13:45, and for those Visitors that wish to visit the Apartheid Museum, the time has come to decide on how much time to spend on the Tourist Route, Taste of Africa, using local taxi will move you to Apartheid Museum, and you will need to use Uber to return to your accommodation.

As we approach Orlando West, we cross a hillock, or if you prefer a small mountain, where virtually your days traverse can be viewed, and a view point where great photo’s can be taken.

Soweto Walking Tour Orlando Towers
Soweto Walking Tour Orlando Towers
Soweto Walking Tour, the settlement visited in the morning
Soweto Walking Tour, the settlement visited in the morning
Soweto Walking Tour
Soweto Walking Tour

Cedric does not include Apartheid Museum, as he does not support the concept that  ‘Apartheid is Dead’, and the Museum gives the impression that Apartheid is dead, so he would prefer you to spend more time in Soweto.


Soweto tour, Hector Pieterson museum
Soweto tour, Hector Pieterson museum


Soweto tour, outside Mandela museum a few years back
Soweto tour, outside Mandela museum a few years back


LAP 4:

Depending on your time available, Taste of Africa will collect you in Orlando West, but for greater impact on you, following your Dube and Orlando West experience,  we return to Orlando East, we use the local foot path where we cross the opens spaces at the Kliprivier, cross the Railway Bridge, and pass through the Station Market Place. 1 km.

The station market place in vibrant.

On this lap, we will pass shebeens and drinking spots, where you will be able to enjoy a beer, and many visitors will buy a beer  at the Station Bottle Store, and enjoy while walking through the market place.



Feel free to take my cell number, 082 565 2520, text me if you have any issue at any stage during the day:

Soweto and the people are my passion.


Join us on any of the following links and enjoy the other options with the Soweto Walk  & Talk

Soweto Tour

Visit Soweto with Cedric de la Harpe



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