Gauteng DestinationsKliptown, Johannesburg
Kliptown is the oldest district in Soweto, famous as the site known as the Congress of the People, where 3 000 gathered together in 1955 to write the Freedom Charter. It later served as the basis for South Africa's liberal constitution.
There is more history. The place where they met was declared a national heritage site, and in 2005 what was a dusty field saw Thabo Mbeki light a flame of freedom to mark its space as the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication – some 50 years on from the Freedom Charter. It is now a park with a marketplace for traders, shops, offices and a hotel. Kliptown has also been the site of a R375 million upgrade, a huge effort to re-develop the largely dilapidated settlement.
At the edge of the square is a museum, which one can enter free of charge, about the Congress of the People. The museum stands where once there was an old hardware shop, owned by an Indian family called the Jades – the Congress has a multicultural history. The museum is beautiful and well worth a visit, even if there is little information about it in your average tourist guide to Johannesburg.
In Kliptown is a youth centre that helps neglected children in the area, known as SKY (Soweto Kliptown Youth). Kliptown has a real feeling of tolerance and multiracial integration. As one blogger on Jhb Live put it: 'I saw white people walking around freely in a squatter camp like they were in Melville.' To experience it firsthand, take a tour of Soweto that includes Kliptown.