What freedom did: White in Soweto

2013-04-28 14:00

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The results of Census 2011, to be released tomorrow, show how democracy has moved us – literally

Peter Zupan has lived in Soweto for the past decade.

The 51-year-old maths teacher moved to Naledi in 2003 after marrying his first wife, Mary Ann, who was a secretary at the school where he taught.

When she died, he met and married his new young wife, Celiwe, and they live in the house he bought in middle class Protea Extension 12.


According to the census, he is one of 81 white people who live in the area, and form 1% of the population.

Zupan, who was born in Austria, lives in Soweto because, unlike in Joburg’s other suburbs, he gets to see his neighbours, as well as children playing in the streets.

He’s involved in the community, and boards taxis to work in Cosmo City, 42km away in the far north of the city.

He says: “We are a big family here. The neighbours are great. There’s no racism, no discrimination.”

Although the census shows 1?441 whites living in greater Soweto, they are difficult to find. Zupan says he is the only white person in his neighbourhood.

Asked if he misses Austria, he says: “To tell you the truth, no. Not even in the slightest. I am generally happy here,” he said, adding he communicates with his family on Facebook and on email.

He last saw his home country in 2003. He has no children.

Zupan is now learning seSotho, isiZulu and siSwati, and says his neighbours are his teachers and are “welcoming and free spirited”.

“Obviously there is no comparison between South Africa and Austria,” he says, adding it would be nice if Joburg’s public transport was more similar to that of Austria’s as it takes two hours – in a journey including a 20 minute walk and two taxis – to get to work.

“Soweto has a nice and open vibe,” he says.

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