Minnesota Farmer

South Africa Bound – to Jo’burg
February 15, 2011, 11:05 am
Filed under: Politics, South Africa, travel | Tags: , , ,

Fifteen people from the Shetek conference of the ELCA flew to South Africa on an agricultural mission that departed on January 31, 2011.  The departure of our plane was not very exciting.  The hours in the plane east to Amsterdam and then south to Johannesburg, South Africa are anything but exciting.  The journey, however is not why we went.  We went to learn about, and help the people of South Africa.

Our plane landed at O R Tambo International Airport at about 10:00 p.m.  We made our way to the car rental where we boarded two Toyota Quantum 10 passenger vans, loaded to the max with us and our luggage, and made our way to the ELCSA Lakeside Airport Guest hotel.  We made our rooms about 2:00 in the morning local time, February 2.

We get little sleep.  At 9:00 a.m. we are off for a tour of Johannesburg.

Our guide is a local college grad with a history major who owns our tour company.  He had done such a good job for an earlier group that we put in a special request for him.  The list of people he has taken around the area is impressive.

Our tour takes us through the downtown financial district of Johannesburg, relics of the gold mines serve as street corner decorations,

Entering Soweto

as well as the Soweto (South Western Townships).

For many years the white population wanted nothing to do with the other people of South Africa.  People were forced to live in areas strictly reserved for white, black, asian and mixed races.  People not of the white race were considered subhuman and lived in virtual slavery, being paid very little for their work.  To this day many jobs that would not be done by people in the U.S. are still done by hand by people of color.

along a Jo'burg highway

Gold is the reason for Johannesburg’s existence.  Jo’burg sits on a reef of gold.  Gold mines as much as 3 miles deep delve into the earth to get the gold.  The area around the mines is still covered with the tailings piles of the mines.  The chemicals used to extract the gold have kept plants from growing on the tailings piles.  Many of these piles are now being re-mined.  New processes have allowed gold to be harvested from those tailings piles.  The left over sand is being poured down into abandoned mines.

Gold is also the reason for the black segregation.  Cheap labor was needed to work the gold fields and black labor could be purchased for less than the cost of machinery. 

The old black mens dorms can still be seen today behind newer housing.  Black men worked the mines for 11 months, then were allowed one month to go back to their families.  This separation created two families for the men, one in their homeland and another near the mines.  This breakdown of the family is still a problem today.  This may also be a reason for the difficulty in breaking the AIDS/HIV epidemic.

Stick around as I continue my trip in South Africa.  Next stop, Kliptown.


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