Facelift for capture site

2015-01-13 00:00

A LIFE-CHANGING experience.

That’s what has been promised future visitors to the Nelson Mandela capture site in Howick, which is set to receive a R75 million facelift and will boast a tunnel under the R103 linking the current exhibition and sculpture site with the capture site near the railway line.

A multi-purpose centre estimated to cost around R45 million is already under construction at the historic site. Another estimated R30 million will be spent over the next few years on developments including the construction of the tunnel.

The multi-purpose centre is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Site manager Christopher Till told The Witness the renovations are part of changes to ensure visitors understood not just the history of Nelson Mandela, but his history in the context of KwaZulu-Natal.

The foundation of the centre has been laid and the concrete pillars have already been erected.

The centre is a significant structure measuring at least 30 metres in length.

The construction site is protected from the prying eyes of the public by corrugated iron sheeting.

Construction workers had been on leave and were back on site yesterday.

Till said the centre would educate visitors and eradicate myths.

“Many people still believe that Mandela was arrested at Liliesleaf [farm] when the ANC leaders were arrested, and others think that he was arrested on a train somewhere.

“When the centre is complete, there will be an exhibition centre that will deal with the history of Mandela …

“The centre will also have a visitors’ area that could be used to hold conferences,” he said.

Till said an indigenous garden would lead to the sculpture, so the visitors could “feel” Mandela’s long walk to freedom.

“The facility is going to be built to accommodate the tourists that we get here. We get busloads of local and international tourists and this will also encourage those passing by to come in … Children could be brought here to learn about Mandela,” he said.

Till said they received between 400 and 500 tourists per day in the wake of Mandela’s death.

“The popularity of this site has grown and we continue to see hundreds of people coming here every day.

“The KZN Department of Economic Development has chosen this as their flagship site. Recently they brought a tourist bus which was designed with an image of the sculpture on its side … we want to make the heritage site an exciting place,” he said.

Till said they do not want to commercialise the site because that is not what Mandela would have wanted.

He said there was much land around the site and it would be used for visitors, music concerts and enjoyment by families.

There would be an exhibition about Mandela including a replica of his cell at the capture site plaque near the railway line on the other side of the R103.

“There will be a tunnel dug to connect the centre with the plaque across [the road]. We want people to be able to walk there. The R103 is a busy road … you will only be able to access the site [near the railway line] through the main capture site.”

Till said the current exhibition centre would be used as an arts and crafts centre and would help expose local artists to the local and international visitors coming to the site.

The renovations were being done in increments and would be completed over a period of several years.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said the provincial government had taken the initiative to develop the Mandela capture site because it is a historic site.

“This will be a place for all those who want to trace their history, the history of Mandela and all his compatriots, to visit … Once you visit that place, you will never be the same.”

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