It has major challenges, but it takes pride in its history as the main theatre for the struggle against apartheid. Many of its citizens, famous and unknown, played a major role in that struggle.
The dynamics of urban development were not taken into consideration when Soweto and other historically disadvantaged areas were created.
The task now is to tackle the resulting problems with determination and build on the strengths of the region, one of which is Soweto's growth as a major tourist attraction. It welcomes everyone with equal hospitality, whether they are presidents, pop stars or ordinary members of the public.
Region D has a difficult task ahead of it, faced with the challenge of building what was once the vast black-labour dormitory of Johannesburg into a prosperous urban area - one in which all its residents and the whole country can take pride.
But precisely because of Soweto's history, and its central role in the larger history of South Africa, few places in the country are as determined to tackle the challenges of the future with such passion.
If the region is heir to poverty, a mass influx of migrants seeking work and a historical lack of decent urban planning, the scene is now set on a great deal of positive municipal and community activity. As before, it retains the irrepressible spirit of all Sow etans.
Regional Director: Patrick Lephunya
Soweto is a composite name, standing for South-Western Townships. Situated in the southwest of the greater metropolitan area, Region D abuts Johannesburg's mining belt to its north. Its western periphery forms the furthest boundary of the City of Johannesburg.
On its eastern border, it is separated from Johannesburg South by the Western Bypass of the N1, and its southern neighbour is Region G (Lenasia, Ennerdale and Orange Farm).
Some of the suburbs of Region D include Chris Hani, Chiawelo, Diepkloof, Diepkloof Extension, Dobsonville, Doornkop/Thulani, Ebumnandini, Freedom Square, Jabulani, Meadowlands, Naledi, Orlando East, Orlando West, Protea Glen, Protea South, Slovo Park, Slovoville and Tshepisong.
The established areas of Region D are largely composed of the old "matchbox" houses built to provide cheap accommodation for Joburg's workers during the apartheid era.
Street after street of these are found in Region D, but in some areas, such as Diepkloof Extension, prosperous Sowetans have built houses that can be compared to those in some of Johannesburg's most upmarket suburbs.
However, there are also large areas of informal settlements, the most extensive being in Doornkop/Thulani, Ebumnandini, Protea South, Chris Hani, Slovo Park and Freedom Square.
Hostels, originally built to house male migrant workers in the most basic of circumstances, are a feature of Soweto. Many of these have been improved and now accommodate couples and families.
And many inhabitants of the "matchbox" dwellings take pride in improving and extending their homes as well as creating pretty gardens. More trees have been planted in recent years and some previously desolate parks have been upgraded and are now attractive recreation areas.
The region is participating in the Wetlands Project, which is aimed at rehabilitating the rivers and streams of Soweto. Although many parts of the wetland have become extremely degraded, the project has the potential to provide green belt areas. There is a growing interest in the greening of Soweto, including private gardens for both decorative and food purposes.
A major landmark in Region D is the huge, world-renowned Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, situated at the eastern entrance to Soweto alongside the Potchefstroom Road, which is roughly parallel to the Soweto Highway at this point.
There is sufficient road infrastructure in many parts of the region, with busy highways running to the Johannesburg central business district and Roodepoort. Commuters are largely reliant on trains and taxis. With a history that did not allow the creation of major employment centres within Soweto, almost all its working people have to commute to work in other areas of Johannesburg.
Region D's population is 1,058,978 (Census 2001, Stats SA) many of whom live in informal settlements; for example, there are 58 000 people living in Doornkop/Thulani alone. Poverty is a major problem, with high unemployment and low educational levels.
- The overarching problem in the region is its historically based poverty and educational issues. Limited funds mean projects have to be prioritised, with the focus on such key issues as:
- The housing backlog;
- Economic development to deal with unemployment;
- The shortage of primary health care clinics in Protea Glen and Slovoville;
- Healthcare and education, especially regarding HIV/Aids and tuberculosis;
- The shortage of libraries and books;
- The number and quality of sport and recreation facilities;
- Improving revenue collection strategies; and
- Eliminating environmental degradation and instilling communities with a spirit of ownership - in this regard the council has embarked on a cleanup campaign with its waste management utility, Pikitup.
With major development issues focus on, the region needs to ensure that all capital projects are completed on time, to secure additional funding for new capital projects and to ensure that existing facilities are well maintained and administered.
Municipal staff training is regarded as a priority.