Tourism opportunities big in Brandfort

2015-12-09 06:00
Unathi Sonwabile Henama , Lecture

Unathi Sonwabile Henama , Lecture

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IT is interesting how statues can attract tourists and change the economic fortunes of a city. I had the pleasure of visiting Florida a few years ago and visited Key Largo. The claim to fame of Key Largo is the fact that it has a statue of Christ in the sea, called Christ of the Abyss. It is a 4 000 pound bronze sculpture.

It is one of the most visited underwater sculptures by divers and snorkelers. This brings in thousands of tourists who get a chance to have the bragging rights to have seen Jesus’s statue that is underwater.

In Rio de Janeiro, the statue of Christ the Redeemer was completed in 1931 and is one of the landmarks to visit in Rio de Janeiro. These statues are symbols that present the identity of the respective cities, for the purpose of linking a destination with a landmark.

They become part of the unique selling points of a destination, allowing a destination to use such attributes to differentiate itself from other competing destinations.

In the post 1994 era, statues of Nelson Mandela have become the site of attraction in many cities that seek to capitalise on the world’s greatest statesman.

Trafalgar Square in London has a statue of Nelson Mandela, Sandton equally has one, and Bloemfontein had the tallest statue until the Union Buildings decided to have the tallest. The placement of the statue of former ANC President Nelson Mandela on Naval Hill attracted more visits and ignited the complete re-development of Naval Hill.

Today Naval Hill has been completely transformed from what it was before, to become a must-visit destination. The pro-vince and the municipality must be commended for the excellent work they have undertaken, especially the presence of security guards to increase safety and security. The statue overlooks the City of Roses with the eyes firmly looking at the church where the ANC was formed.

On the ZR Mahabane Road, I always wonder why there is no tourism sign that indicates that Brandfort has the former house of Winnie Mandela.

She was married to Mandela and by the time of his arrest in Howick in KwaZulu-Natal, he was the most wanted man in the country. Howick has used the site of the capture of 5 August 1962 to attract money-laden tourists to the area.

Mandela and other struggle icons went on to be tried at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria in a court case called the Rivonia Trial that led to them being given life imprisonment at Robben Island. One of the great legal minds for the Rivonia trialists was none other than the former Old Grey, Braam Fisher, after whom the head office of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality is named.

The town of Brandfort was a place of banishment for Winnie Mandela, restricting her far away from Soweto where she and her husband had a home in Orlando. House No. 802 in Majwemasweu. This is a three-bedroomed brick-house that needs to be converted into a museum of international prominence.

There is also need to create a large bronze statue of Mama Winnie Mandela on Naval Hill that will look towards the one of Nelson.

Mama Winnie, true to her nature as a strong lady, turned lemon into lemonade, as she never allowed the sociology of apartheid to destroy her spirit. She built a clinic and a nursery in Brandfort, and was able to feed the hungry. I am convinced if Brandfort capitalises on the Mandela factor and develops its heritage into a money making machine it would attract tourists from the ZR Mahabane highway to come and spend a few hours in the town. This could bring in much-needed money that would boost the local economy.

Winnie Mandela was exiled to Brandfort because Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, who is regarded as the architect of apartheid, had his family moved to Brandfort in 1917, after coming from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.

The history of Brandfort is our collective heritage, the heritage of apartheid and the heritage of liberation.

It must be our collective obsession to use the image and history of HF Verwoerd to create a tourist site that will bring in money and jobs to the majority of Brandfort’s residents.

The island of St Helena was the site of Napoleon’s exile after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

It is the same island where Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo was exiled to in 1890 for leading a Zulu army against the British in rebellion against the annexation of the coastal land of Zululand.

Basil Read has just finished the construction of an airport that will bring in tourists that will be marvel at the collective heritage of St Helena to create jobs, reduce poverty and address inequality.

May this be the future of Brandfort.

It is envisaged that this will create a better life for all, and that is what we all aspire to.
Unathi Sonwabile Henama is a member of the Black Management Forum and teaches tourism at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and writes in his personal capacity.

If you want to keep in touch with him, send an email to

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