THE VILAKAZI STREET: Home of The Nobel Laureates

By virtue of her highly eventful history, Africa has recorded quite a handful of Nobel laureates over the years. Since 1901 when the Nobel Prize first staged its annual award event, only 26 Africans have picked up the award, with South Africa being the country with the most awardees on the continent.

Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu at a State function
Two influential personalities who have been Nobel Prize winners from South Africa stand out. One named Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa who played a key role in the repeal of apartheid laws and the other, Desmond Tutu, a theologian, bishop and public speaker. They were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (Mandela in 1993 and Tutu in 1984). Both Mandela and Tutu once shared a common place of abode. This elevated that part of South Africa into a befitting tourist status, earning it the tag of "home to the Nobel Laureates". The Vilakazi!

Right in the heart of Soweto is a famous lane that stretches a little over 450 meters. This street, Vilakazi, was named after Dr B W Vilakazi, one of South Africa’s earliest black poets and novelists. Dr Vilakazi, whose main works include three novels and several volumes of poetry, was also the first black man to lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013)
Bishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu (1931-2021)
The first building on the street is Tutu’s house. It is painted light grey and enclosed by high walls, but bears no clear sign that a legendary figure once lived inside it.

A Johannesburg resident, Precious Govuza, who has visited the street four times, says South Africa’s Independence started there.

"Every time I have a visitor from outside South Africa, I take them to Vilakazi Street in Soweto and I tell them this is where our Independence was born".

The house is now the Mandela Family Museum and listed among South Africa’s heritage sites. The museum is open to the public for tours on weekdays.
At the end of the road is one of the most famous schools in Soweto, Orlando West High. The school was one of the most active during the June 16, 1976 student protests.

On the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Street is the intersection where Hector Pieterson was killed by apartheid police. Pieterson was the first victim of the June 16 students’ uprising, a key event in the struggle against apartheid.