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Johannesburg

IIt was an act that had played out many times in South Africa: a forced removal. In 1904 the bubonic plague broke out in the town centre, in an area known as Brickfields. Once the brick makers had been removed 25km south, to Klipspruit, the area was fenced and razed to the ground. And so Soweto was born.

In time Klipspruit was settled by a bohemian group of people - whites, coloureds, Indians and a sprinkling of Chinese joined the original black people. An Afrikaner had a dairy farm in the area, where the pastures were rich.

So it seemed natural that, 51 years later, in 1955, that nearby Kliptown was where several thousand people from around the country gathered to ratify the Freedom Charter, a document setting out the ordinary aspirations of black South Africans for equal rights in the land of their birth. It was an atmosphere described by Nelson Mandela in his book Long Walk to Freedom as “serious and festive”. Fifty years later, on 27 June 2005, Mandela was there again, in his capacity as retired president of a democratic South Africa. This time the gathering saw the opening of the grand and symbolic Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, to commemorate the historic day in 1955.

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