New museum marks turning point on Madiba’s long walk to freedom

2011-08-06 00:00

THE R8 million Mandela Museum and memorial project was officially launched yesterday, opposite the Nelson Mandela capture site outside Howick.

Gracing the occasion were inkosi Mandla Mandela, the grandson of former President Nelson Mandela, and the respected human rights lawyer and Mandela’s friend, George Bizos.

The total project will cost R100 million on completion. Mandela was arrested at the site 49 years ago on August 5, 1962.

A frail-looking advocate Bizos spoke of the fond memories he has of Madiba, which date back to 1944 when they met as law students at the University of Witwatersrand.

He said the upgrading of the site will give people of KwaZulu-Natal and the midlands an opportunity to get to know the Mandela whom he knows.

He spoke of the sacrifices that Mandela made, notably risking his career as a lawyer by taking part in the defiance campaign and risking his life when he was jailed for 27 years on Robben Island.

“There is prophetic testimony that was given by Alan Paton during mitigation of the Treason Trial where 105 people were charged with treason,” Bizos said.

“Alan said these are the true leaders of black people in South Africa and someday you will want to negotiate with them, but if you kill them, who will you negotiate with?”

Mandla Mandela said his grandfather has asked him to convey the message that his name must not be elevated above other struggle heroes and heroines who had travelled with him on the long walk to freedom.

“I spoke to him today and he said, ‘You must insist that not only my name is elevated, because there are many people who played a huge role in the struggle’.”

Mandela said, “My grandfather took it further by saying that the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan is home to two stalwarts — Govan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba, but their names were not considered suitable for their hometown to be named after them.”

He said the metro had been an area that changed the Mandela family for more than three decades and had such a negative impact for people carrying the surname that some even changed it to Mendel because they did not want to be associated with Mandela, the “terrorist”.

“I first saw my grandfather when I was nine years old in 1983 and I did not believe that he was a prisoner because I always associated jail with criminals,” said Mandela.

He said the former president described Howick as a land rich in heritage and history.

“We are happy that you have taken this initiative, but I also urge you not to forget others who also walked the same journey with him,” he said.

The project was funded by the KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance Department. It comprises a museum and a Nelson Mandela statue. The farm near the site has already been purchased. The farmhouse is being used as an exhibit about Mandela’s journey.

Co-operative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube said of the site: “It allows us an opportunity to follow the footprints of a man whose long walk to freedom suffered a temporary setback in these hills when he was detained, and marked the last day of his freedom for many years.”

Mandela was driving an Austin Westminster from Groutville with his friend and comrade Cecil Williams on August 5, 1962. They were going to meet former African National Congress president Albert Luthuli when they were stopped and Mandela was arrested. Mandela was posing as Williams’s chauffeur.

Williams had fetched Mandela from Botswana and taken him to Groutville after his visit to various African countries.

When Mandela was given the freedom of Howick in 1996, he visited the site and gave an account of what happened that day. When he was approached by Pietermaritzburg police he told them his name was David. They told him he was Nelson Mandela and arrested him.

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Mandela: Icon is healthy and relaxed in Qunu

NELSON Mandela is healthy and at his home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, his grandson, Mandla Mandela, said yesterday.

“He is healthy and he is enjoying his stay in Qunu,” he said.

“When we go out he asks us where we are going. If we tell him we are going to look at the cattle, he asks how many cattle we have and he jokingly asks to go with us. It is very nice to be with him.” — Sapa.

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