Gauteng Tourist AttractionsThe Oppenheimer Gardens
In the midst of Soweto, on the corner of Majoeng and Ntsane Streets, you will find a garden. Actually it looks as if it could be a forest, the many trees of the garden are so dense, and it certainly qualifies as a bird sanctuary for this reason.
Where? 991 Majoeng Street (Corner of Ntsane Street) Soweto, Johannesburg
How? Call +27 (0)11 930-1813
The Oppenheimer's already have a gorgeous garden in the more affluent suburbs of Johannesburg in the shape of Brenthurst Gardens, on one of their properties, but the Oppenheimer Gardens in Soweto follow a slightly different theme. This is essentially a city park, and it contains both the Oppenheimer Tower and the Credo Mutwa Cultural Village.
The gardens themselves are largely rocky with a rich array of plants and trees, including aloes, cabbage trees, wild olives, coral trees, plumbago, honeysuckle and canary creeper. A number of sangomas or local medicine men use the more indigenous of these from which to collect bark and herbs, which they mix for medicinal purposes.
The Tower, which lies virtually in the middle of the gardens, was built in 1957 in honour of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer the mining magnate, who also contributed a fair amount of money to alleviating what was a housing crisis in Soweto at the time. It was built, including the 49 stairs that scale its height, with bricks from demolished houses belonging to people who were forced to move to Moroka from newly declared 'white areas'.
Scale the tower for incredible views over Soweto – look over the Jabulani Hostels, the Fresh Fruit Market, and memorial acre – all landmarks.
In the past, the Oppenheimer gardens have served as a refuge for students, who hid in the trees, and it was the site of battles between township residents and hostel dwellers.
Next to the Tower is the Credo Mutwa Cultural Village, also known as Khayalendaba – 'place of stories' – no surprise if you consider the history of its namesake - poet, artist, cultural historian, award-winning nature conservationist and shaman healer Credo Mutwa. It is filled with a series of incredible sculptures and buildings that speak of African art, culture and folklore.