Heartbeat of the Nation

The Numbers dont lie!

In every country of the world, there is always a city or town that greatly influences the culture and lifestyle of the people living in it and Soweto is indeed one of those towns.

The culture and lifestyle of many generations of South Africa’s indigenous population has been shaped by this environment in some shape or form. Even the catalyst for South Africa’s successful political transition during the 90’s began in the streets of Soweto.Soweto is potentially a significant participant and contributor to the GDP of South Africa, through a world renowned heritage-driven tourism sector that attracts both local and international business and investment opportunities.

soWeto DeMoGRAPHIcs

  • Area Size – 280 square kilometres (estimated)
  • Local Community Radio – 600 000 Listeners
  • Population – 5.5 mil (estimated)
  • Estimated gross income of R 33 billion per annum


  1. Gauteng Province is home to 13 399 724 million people (2016 South African National Census), almost 30% of the total South African population.
  2. Gauteng Province is also the fastest growing province, experiencing a population growth of over 68%between the 1996 and 2015 censuses,
  3. thus Gauteng now has the largest population of any province in South Africa, though the smallest area.




Soweto, urban complex in Gauteng province, South Africa. Originally set aside by the South African white government for residence by Blacks, it adjoins the city of Johannesburg on the southwest; its name is an acronym derived from South-Western Townships. It is the country’s largest Black urban complex.

The townships constituting Soweto grew out of shantytowns and slums that arose with the arrival of Black labourers from rural areas, in particular in the period between World Wars I and II. Growth was haphazard, and the emerging township lacked municipal services and government. Slum clearance and permanent-housing programs began there in 1948, at which time local as well as national authority was established.

The population, representing a number of Black ethnic groups, typically has been larger than the official enumeration (which had exceeded one million by the mid-1990s). Soweto residents were in the forefront of demands for the development of Black equality during the country’s apartheid era. In 1976 Soweto was the site of a massive uprising known as the Soweto Rebellion, which began as a protest against the government’s insistence that the Afrikaans language be used as the medium of instruction in Soweto’s high schools. Years of violence and repression followed.

A Community Council of Black residents was first elected in 1978 to administer municipal affairs. Considered a powerless institution by most residents of Soweto, the council was nominally responsible for developing transport, roads, water supply, sewerage, electricity, and housing. After apartheid was dismantled in the mid-1990s, these municipal services came under the jurisdiction of the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council. In 2000 the Greater Johannesburg administrative structure was decentralized into 11 regions, with the Soweto township being divided between two of these. Most services became the responsibility of each region, with some still provided by various regional, provincial, or national authorities.

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There is little industrial development in Soweto, and most residents commute to other parts of Greater Johannesburg for employment. However, tourism has become a growing source of income.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.

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