About Freedom Square


Written by Simon Matthews

During the mid-20th century, South Africa was already well-established as a racist country with discriminatory laws against non-white citizens. 1912 saw the first act of defiance with the formation of the SANNC (the South African Native National Congress) which was renamed the ANC in 1923, a body that attempted to provide black South Africans with representation for the first time.

White communists of mainly Jewish backgrounds, who met during university years, joined the fray and became active in participating in resistance activities. Many belonged to the communist Party (formed in 1921) and were involved in writing anti-government articles in soon to be banned journals or the planning of meetings to discuss the growing volatile situation.

One such meeting was planned in 1955, to take place on a dusty little square in Soweto in the middle of winter, in the oldest suburb called Kliptown. It was called “The Congress of the People” where around    3 000 people met to work out amongst themselves, a new unified vision they saw for a future South Africa.

Proposals were gathered and correlated with the help of the white activists and formulated into a document called “The Freedom Charter”, that which became the backbone of South Africa’s new and very liberal constitution after the 1994 elections.

Freedom Square (or Walter Sisulu Square) is open air with no entrance fees. It is well-marked and easy to find using a map of Soweto. It’s a place that pays tribute to South Africa’s past political struggle against apartheid and borders Soweto’s oldest and one of the poorest shanty clusters in the township. Visitors are able to:

  • Visit the cairn in the centre of the square (with the flame of freedom blazing in the centre), where the document of the original tenants of the Freedom Charter are inscribed in stone
  • View aspects of Kliptown from atop the railway bridge
  • Visit the little costume museum ajoining the square
  • Pop into the Soweto Hotel on the square for a cocktail or refreshment
  • Visit the vibrant market that a-joins the square

For More Information

  • Address: 99 Union Ave, Johannesburg, 1812 Union Ave, Pimville Zone 9, Johannesburg, 1812

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