Madiba: In celebration of a hero

2013-12-06 14:57
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Pics: Embassies honour Madiba

Countries from all over the world are paying tribute to the late Nelson Mandela by flying their flags at half-mast.

On February 11 1990, South Africa stood before a momentous precipice of change.

The direction our country would take, then steeped in the terror of Apartheid, lay at the feet of Nelson Mandela as leader of the ANC, as he walked through the doors of the Victor Verster Prison, after 27 long years as a political prisoner.

On Thursday 5 November 2013, the Father of Our Nations who set the course for reconciliation in our troubled land, passed on at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg at the age of 95.

As tributes to his life stream in we’ve rounded up a few hallowed places where you can experience and learn more about his life's legacy.


Madiba's body lay in state at the Union Buildings in the capital Pretoria before being moved to Qunu, where he grew up, for a private funeral. Unofficial government sources have said he could be laid to rest on 14 December, though some are calling for his burial to take place on the 16th, a public holiday named Reconciliation Day.

Genealogically, the Qunu community is practically a Mandela village. Although much has changed, you can still see how Madiba grew up, and where by his own admission he was the happiest in his youth.  Visiting Qunu offers the opportunity to see the Presbyterian Church that used to be home to Mandela's Qunu Primary School. The church where he was baptised is still there. And you can also see the Mandela family graves.

Mandel Expo and condolences book at the Cape Town Civic Centre

The Cape Town Civic Centre will host condolences books for people to write a tribute to the great leader. While there you can also take in the  Nelson Mandela exhibition in place in commemoration of the 50 years since he arrived at Robben Island to serve a life sentence in prison. Some of the items on display show Mandela's prison card, with the date of his arrival on Robben Island on 27 May 1963 and  a grey, tattered warrant of committal issued by the Supreme Court on 7 November 1962.

Mandela Family Museum

Most of the important political figures in our country have at one point or another lived in Soweto. Nelson Mandela is no different. His home from when he first got married in 1944 can be found in Orlando on Vilakazi Street. This is where he lived with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the children in 1958. Here you can see awards and personal memorabilia from the former couple's early lives.

(Wikimedia commons)

The Apartheid museum

This museum first opened in 2001 and can be regarded as a Rainbow Nation pilgrimage for those wanting to understand and experience what apartheid South Africa was really like. It chronicles South Africa's difficult past during the Apartheid era and the road that led to its first democratic elections.  A series of 22 individual exhibition areas takes the visitor through this dramatic emotional journey, with a good portion dedicated to the lives of struggle stalwarts such as Oliver Tambo, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela - to mention a few.  The museum is an embodiment of what Madiba stands for -  showing the world how South Africa is coming to terms with its oppressive past and working towards a future that all South Africans can call their own.

The Mandela Centre of Memory

The Johannesburg-based Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, which has been closed for renovations, houses a wide array of documents on the life of the anti-apartheid leader. Its premises at 107 Central Street in Houghton are being transformed into a public facility, interactive archive and venue for dialogue. The centre focuses on three key areas: the preservation of resources that document the life and times of Nelson Mandela; the facilitation of dialogue that focuses on social issues; and Nelson Mandela International Day, which celebrates Mandela’s legacy and aims to inspire individuals to help change the world for the better.

The Nelson Mandela Museum

It's the biggest tourist attraction in Umtata even though it's not quite easy to find. But once you're there it's one of the most fantastic museums you've ever seen. That's because it houses numerous gifts, awards, and honours given to Nelson Mandela during his time in prison and during the time he was president of the country.  Find it at the Eastern Cape's Bhunga Building. Madiba penned this personal message when he opened it.

"The Nelson Mandela Museum is a not for profit institution established by the government of South Africa as part of a portfolio of legacy projects that seek to transform the heritage landscape from our apartheid past. At the same time, it is a resource for promoting economic development throughout tourism in an impoverished region of the country. This is the region in which I was born and grew up.

I was privileged to open the Museum five years ago, and continue to take a close personal interest in its work. In our view it is working hard to give substance to its vision of becoming “a living museum… that embraces development and inspires people through education, culture and tourism.”

We would encourage and value any assistance which you are in a position to give to the Museum.

I thank you."


Nelson Mandela Gateway, V7A Waterfront and Robben Island

Robben island is probably the most famous of all the sites associated with Nelson Mandela.  From the 17th to the 20th centuries, it served as a place of banishment, isolation and imprisonment. Today it is a World Heritage Site and museum, a poignant reminder to the newly democratic South Africa of the price paid for freedom.

The triple-story glass Nelson Mandela Gateway museum links the V&A Waterfront with the Robben Island Museum and incorporates the passenger ferry terminal. Once on the island that used to be a leper colony, you'll  be able to visit its biggest draw card - Nelson Mandela's former cell, 46664.

Howick Mandela Monument, KZN Midlands

A sculpture made up of 50 rods of steel is the centre piece of a new memorial site - the Nelson Mandela Capture Site - unveiled to mark the 50th anniversary of his long walk to freedom. It was here, on this rather ordinary piece of road along the R103, back on 5 August 1962, that armed apartheid police flagged down a car in which Nelson Mandela was pretending to be the chauffeur. Having succeeded in evading capture by apartheid operatives for 17 months, Mandela had just paid a clandestine visit to African National Congress (ANC) president Chief Albert Luthuli's Groutville home to report back on his African odyssey, and to request support in calling for an armed struggle. It was in this dramatic way, at this unassuming spot, that Nelson Mandela was finally captured, and proceeded to disappear from public view for the next 27 years.

Constitution Hill

Today Johannesburg's Constitution Hill is home to The Constitution Court, the country's highest court. But it has been a favourite hotbed of political resistance for decades. The Old Fort prison also used to be here and political prisoners, including Mahatma Ghandi, were held. Nelson Mandela was detained here during the infamous Treason Trial in 1956. He was also brought here in 1962 but was kept in the hospital section so he wouldn't influence other prisoners. See the permanent exhibition of Mandela's diaries, files, letters, and photos of his time in the fight against apartheid.

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