THE 30th anniversary of former president Nelson Mandela’s release from prison was commemorated with the grand opening of the R102-million multi-purpose and exhibition centre at the Mandela Capture Site near Howick.Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said the completion of the state-of-the-art centre marked the third step of a five-stage development plan that government had for the Capture Site. She said future plans included economic development projects that would stimulate entrepreneurism around the area.She said a lot of work has gone into the Capture Site since the day it was officially unveiled in August 2012 on the 50th anniversary of Madiba’s capture. The latest addition consists of a self-guided exhibition commemorating Madiba’s life and his transformation into a freedom fighter, prisoner and, ultimately, South Africa’s first democratically elected president.Kubayi-Ngubane also used the event to announce the start of a R12-million upgrade of the visitors’ parking, which includes a turning circle, pedestrian walkways, internal fencing and signage.“To us as the KZN provincial government immortalising this place felt like a fitting tribute to these momentous events of our history. In developing this site, we had a vision of a sombre place for collective memories but also a place that could attract international tourists,” said MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Sipho Hlomuka.His department is currently busy with the R1,5 million improvements to the Mandela sculpture lighting, and additional electrical infrastructure around the site which will ensure that the facility can be used by tourists even at night.The delighted mayor of uMgungundlovu, Thobekile Maphumulo, said the centre marks a significant milestone in the continuous development of the Mandela Capture Site and the district.She said it will be in the interest of the country’s future to use the facility to also teach the youth the values that Madiba stood for. “He believed that people with different backgrounds and cultures could live together. He believed that people with different opinions and beliefs could find a common ground and co-exist in harmony,” she said.Director for the Apartheid Museum Chris Till took the dignitaries around the exhibition room, whose walls are lined with video installations of snippets from Mandela’s life as well political events that shaped his life. The room is anchored by a long table containing a multi-layered display of historical content and artefacts from Madiba’s life. Also on display is a 1962 Austin Westminster like the one Mandela was travelling in when he was arrested that year.“The groundbreaking interactive and immersive exhibition, which dramatically adds to the Capture Site experience, provides an essential educational resource for the province in meeting the imperative of augmenting the history syllabus for learners,” said Till.Pupils from local high schools who were invited to the opening said while they enjoyed the exhibition, some of the elements made them sad. These include the brutality of the apartheid police and violence that struggle activists had to face in their daily lives.“Seeing all of this and watching some of the videos on display reminded us that we have so much to be appreciative of today. We have so many opportunities today because of the sacrifices that people like president Mandela made,” said Asanda Mchunu from Mpophomeni High.