On the Southern edge of one of the Country’s most famous townships, Soweto, lies the equally Historic Avalon Cemetery.
The biggest cemetery in South Africa lies in Soweto, as is the final resting place of many heroes of the struggle. It is also the site of the Mendi Memorial. The Avalon Cemetery opened in 1972 during the height of Apartheid, it was reserved exclusively for Blacks. It spans 1.72km2 is filled with 300 000 graves!
The huge extension was officially opened on 9 February by Matshidiso Mfikoe, at the time a mayoral committee member for environment and corporate services. Before Avalon opened, Sowetans were buried in Nancefield (Klipspruit) Cemetery. That burial ground opened in 1912 but is now full except for second or third burials.
Just beyond the entrance, to the left, there are Memorials dedicated to struggle activists Lilian Ngoyi and Helen Joseph. During Women’s Month in August 2010, the graves of Ngoyi, Joseph and Maxeke were declared National Heritage Sites. (The Cemetery has Memorials to other heroes as well.)
To the North, near the Train Station, lies the Mendi Memorial. In this Cemetery you’ll find the graves of Joe Slovo and Hector Pieterson.
City Parks says: “Avalon continues to play an important role, not only for Sowetans, but for all South Africans, as the country moves from an era of violent struggles to one of reconciliation, and the graves of those who fought for justice continue to be the site of homage for many visitors.”