Mandela Sights on our South Africa Experience
The 18th July is officially Nelson Mandela day. Celebrating the a truly inspiring individual in global history who was integral in bringing about the fall of apartheid. So we thought it would be a fitting tribute to the great man to highlight where you can learn about more about Nelson Mandela and arguably the South Africa’s most crucial period in modern history on our epic South Africa Experience. Read below what Lonely Planet has to say about the destinations.
Robben Island in the distance, viewed from Table Mountain and the Nelson Mandela Capture Site Memorial.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life incarcerated and served most of his sentence on a forlorn, five-sq-km island off the coast of Cape Town. Trips to Robben Island begin at the V&A Waterfront, where ferries transfer you to the former prison. It’s a highly regimented day out, which takes you from ferry to bus tour and eventually on foot to shuffle through the prison. Try to hang back from your group to spend a little time contemplating the implausibly poky cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 unimaginably difficult years and yet emerged with a heart filled with forgiveness rather than hatred.
For years, the only thing marking this historically important site at Howick was an unassuming plaque at the side of the road. It was here in 1962 that, following 17 months of evading the apartheid authorities, Nelson Mandela was arrested. The revamped Capture Site is a far more befitting monument to an event that in many ways would go on to shape the future of an entire country. As you approach the sculpture, the 50 metal rods align to create a magnificent portrait of Mandela. Other exhibits are still in progress, but there’s a great little café where you can sit and contemplate history with an excellent cup of joe.
City Hall in Cape Town and the entry to the Apartheid Museum near Johannesburg.
CITY HALL AND GRAND PARADE
At the moment there is nothing marking the spot where Mandela gave his first speech as a free man in 1990. Crowds gathered in Cape Town’s Grand Parade to cheer on the newly released struggle icon. “Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today,” he said from the balcony of City Hall. “I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.” Realising the he importance of this site, the City of Cape Town is in the midst of plans to erect a life-size statue of Mandela on the very balcony where he delivered the speech.
To understand South Africa’s complicated society – and Mandela’s importance within it – you need to look to the past. Apartheid, the segregationist system that ruled the country from 1948 to 1994, infiltrated every aspect of daily life: education, employment, freedom of movement, the train you took, the hospital you went to – even which beach you chose to bathe at. The policies shaped Mandela’s entire life and nowhere can you get a better grip on those heartless rules than at the Apartheid Museum, south of Johannesburg. It’s an emotional visit, but the interactive exhibits and wealth of information make the museum an absolute must. Allow at least two hours if you hope to soak it all up.
* Can only be visited for those entertaining South Africa via Johannesburg but would need an additional day.
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