Midlands memories of Mandela

2011-08-12 00:00

AUGUST 5, 1962, is a date that resonates in the history of South Africa. It is the day that the car in which Nelson Mandela was travelling was stopped and the man dubbed the Black Pimpernel was arrested by police just outside Howick, on the old Johannesburg to Durban road (now the R103).

For years, nothing marked this historic site, then in 1996, a brick monument with a brass plaque was erected, giving visitors to the Midlands Meander a chance to stop at the site and ponder Mandela’s final moments of freedom for many years. It seemed an insignificant gesture.

Now plans are under way to build a permanent museum, multipurpose theatre and amphitheatre on land diagonally opposite the monument, and it seems that the Mandela Capture Monument is to get the prominence it deserves.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has committed R8 million to the project, and speaking at the launch last Friday, Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube said: “The Nelson Mandela capture site is one of the most important sites in the quest to free our nation.

“It allows us an opportunity to follow the footprints of a man whose long walk to freedom suffered a temporary setback in these hills.”

As part of the launch — which was attended by George Bizos and Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela — an exhibition, titled Mandela: Leader, Comrade, Negotiator, Prisoner, Statesman, was opened.

A joint project by the Apartheid Museum, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory (Nelson Mandela Foundation) and the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, the exhibition details Mandela’s life, from his childhood in rural Transkei, to his capture in Howick, his appearance at the Rivonia Trial, his incarceration on Robben Island, his appointment as president of the country and his life after leaving the presidency.

The exhibition is housed in what appears to be a barn-like structure on the property, which was acquired by the uMngeni municipality with the assistance of Cogta.

Much of what is displayed on the panels is well documented, but there are some surprises. In one video installation, Mandela discusses his Xhosa initiation ceremony at the age of 16 and admits that he didn’t get out the words “I am a man” as forcefully as he’d hoped because the pain of the circumcision had gone into his bones.

Another film shows a visit by South African and foreign journalists to Robben Island in 1977. The footage includes a look at Mandela’s prison cell, with its pictures of then Winnie Mandela and their children, and a bookshelf full of books and other personal items.

It also captures Mandela and other Robben Island prisoners as they repair a road, and there are images from a later visit by the former president to the island, during which he is seen looking through the bars of his prison cell and across the ocean towards Cape Town.

As a resident of the midlands, I was especially captivated by a film in which Mandela speaks about his capture outside Howick. Recorded when he was given the freedom of the midlands town in 1996, Mandela can be seen sitting inside a car, next to a police officer, and using a megaphone to share his story.

Mandela and fellow activist Cecil Williams were travelling back to Johannesburg in an Austin Westminster, following a clandestine meeting with then African National Congress (ANC) president Chief Albert Luthuli at his home in Groutville, when they were stopped by the police.

Asked who he was, Mandela insisted he was David Motsamayi, but the police said they knew who he was and that he was under arrest. He was later found guilty of leaving the country without a passport and for inciting workers to strike, and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Initially held in Pretoria, Mandela was moved to Robben Island in May 1963. Some weeks later, the police raided Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia and arrested his comrades, and together they stood trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial in 1964. Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Andrew Mlangeni and Elias Motsoaledi were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Hearing him share his thoughts on his capture and what happened to him afterwards helps to breathe life into the sterile monument a short distance away.

Adding a further special touch to the exhibition is the music that can be heard in the background. Playing on a loop are songs recorded at concerts in honour of Madiba, including a performance by the late Amy Winehouse at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday concert at Hyde Park in London, Johnny Clegg singing Asimbonanga and Simple Minds performing Mandela Day.

The exhibition ends with images of Mandela with Francois Pienaar at the Rugby World Cup in 1995, his visit to Afrikaner stalwart Betsy Verwoerd, his marriage to Graça Machel, and, rather poignantly, given recent concerns about his health, with a cartoon by Zapiro. Drawn in 1999, it contains the words: “The World Bids Farewell To An Icon”.

A VISIT to the exhibition Mandela: Leader, Comrade, Negotiator, Prisoner, Statesman, is worth taking time over. But it’s not the only attraction at the midlands site.

Visitors can also stroll along to the Truth Shop, which stocks a range of books, clothing and other memorabilia, before heading to the Truth Café next door. Run by Brendan Grealy and his wife Annie, the café, which has a deck overlooking trees and a small dam, is open from 8 am to 4 pm, Wednesday through Saturday. It serves breakfasts, light meals and tea-time treats.

Also on the site is an outlet for Impumelelo Bead Artists, who make some of the most beautiful beaded panels I’ve seen yet. The subjects range from animals and traditional scenes to images of world leaders, including Mandela and Barack Obama.

They also make jewellery and other items from beads and are a living embodiment of the hopes expressed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs at the launch, that the initiative will help to create job opportunities for the local community.

More to see and do at the site

A VISIT to the exhibition Mandela: Leader, Comrade, Negotiator, Prisoner, Statesman, is worth taking time over. But it’s not the only attraction at the midlands site.

Visitors can also stroll along to the Truth Shop, which stocks a range of books, clothing and other memorabilia, before heading to the Truth Café next door. Run by Brendan Grealy and his wife Annie, the café, which has a deck overlooking trees and a small dam, is open from 8 am to 4 pm, Wednesday through Saturday. It serves breakfasts, light meals and tea-time treats

Also on the site is an outlet for Impumelelo Bead Artists, who make some of the most beautiful beaded panels I’ve seen yet. The subjects range from animals and traditional scenes to images of world leaders, including Mandela and Barack Obama

They also make jewellery and other items from beads and are a living embodiment of the hopes expressed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs at the launch, that the initiative will help to create job opportunities for the local community.</p>

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.