July 15

Walking in Mandela’s Footsteps Through South Africa

July 15, 2023

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a renowned anti-apartheid activist and the first democratically elected president of South Africa, left an indelible mark on the nation's history. From his pivotal role in ending apartheid to overseeing the transition to democracy, Mandela's legacy continues to shape South Africa. Join us as we explore the remarkable events and milestones that transformed South Africa's trajectory, following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela celebrating

Nelson Mandela's impact can still be seen and felt throughout South Africa, Image Credit: Maureen Keating

Mvezo, Eastern Cape

On the banks of the Mbashe River lies the rural village of Mvezo, the birthplace of Rolihlahla Mandela. Born into the Mandela clan, a chiefly family among the Tembu people, Mandela's upbringing shaped his journey towards becoming an anti-apartheid icon and South Africa's first democratically elected president!

Today, the village features the Nelson Mandela Birthplace Museum, an open-air museum that takes visitors on an authentic and detailed exploration of Mandela's life. Through exhibitions, publications, and educational programmes, the museum commemorates Mandela's childhood, his path to adulthood, and his lasting impact on the world.

A rural village in what in now known as the Transkei

A rural village in what is now known as the Transkei

Capture Site, KwaZulu-Natal

On 5 August 1962, Nelson Mandela's fate took a decisive turn at the Capture Site in Durban. This spot marks the place where he was apprehended after evading apartheid police for over a year. 

Arrested while acting as a chauffeur, Mandela spent the following 27 years in prison. The site's commemorative monument, featuring 50 steel columns, creates a remarkable optical illusion – Mandela's face emerges when viewed from certain angles, paying tribute to his indomitable spirit.

The capture site on Nelson Mandela in KwaZulu Natal

The site where Nelson Mandela was arrested, whereafter he spent 27 years in prison

Robben Island, Cape Town

For 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela resided in a tiny cell on Robben Island, located off the coast of Cape Town. This island served as a prison for centuries, and Mandela endured harsh conditions. 

However, his time on the island became a catalyst for personal growth and intellectual enrichment. Today, the island is a museum, allowing visitors to step into history, witness Mandela's cell, and gain insights into his resilience and unwavering commitment to justice. Read our blog to find out more about Robben Island. 

Robben Island in Cape Town, South Africa

Visit the very place where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his prison sentence

Vilakazi Street, Soweto

Vilakazi Street in Soweto carries major historical significance as the former residence of two Nobel laureates – Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Mandela's house at No. 8115, mentioned in his autobiography, "The Long Walk to Freedom," served as a central point in his life. 
Returning to this address after his release from prison solidified his freedom. Walking along Vilakazi Street allows visitors to immerse themselves in the vibrant atmosphere of Soweto and witness the place that holds Mandela's personal milestones.
Mandela House on Vilakazi Street in Soweto

Mandela House on Vilikazi Street is woven into South Africa's history

City Hall, Cape Town 

The iconic Cape Town City Hall holds significant historical importance in South Africa's liberation struggle. It was from the central balcony of this majestic building that Nelson Mandela delivered his first public address in 27 years upon his release on 11 February 1990. Thousands of jubilant people gathered in front, eager to hear Mandela's inspiring words about democracy, peace, and reconciliation.

The City of Cape Town has created a permanent exhibition within the hall, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in Mandela's life and the events that shaped South Africa's transition to democracy.

Bronze statue of Nelson Mandela at Cape Town City Hall

This bronze statue of Mandela capturing his hand raised mid-wave, as famously depicted in photos from his speech

Londolozi Game Reserve, Great Kruger National Park

Nestled within the captivating wilderness of the Londolozi Game Reserve, Nelson Mandela sought solace and reflection after his release from prison. Enchanted by the diverse African wildlife and the harmony between different races at Londolozi, Mandela recognised the potential of nature conservation to drive economic opportunities and promote international awareness of South Africa's potential. 

With game drives that showcase Africa's magnificent wildlife, visiting this reserve provides a glimpse into the profound impact nature had on Mandela's vision for his beloved country.

“During my long walk to freedom, I had the rare privilege to visit Londolozi. There I saw people of all races living in harmony amidst the beauty that Mother Nature offers. Londolozi represents a model of the dream I cherish for the future of nature preservation in our country.” – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela arriving at Londolozi in 1991

Nelson Mandela arriving at Londolozi in 1991, Image Credit: Londolozi

Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

Johannesburg's Apartheid Museum is an essential stop to comprehend the profound struggle against apartheid and appreciate the triumph of the human spirit over oppression. The museum chronicles the apartheid era and the rise of black consciousness and culminates with the historic release of Nelson Mandela. 

Visiting this museum is a poignant reminder of South Africa's past, offering invaluable insights into the nation's journey toward freedom, equality, and the legacy that Mandela left behind.

An exhibition at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa

The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg showcases the 20th-century history of South Africa

Places that Celebrate the Life of Nelson Mandela

Nobel Square, Cape Town

Nobel Square at the V&A Waterfront is an essential stop for those tracing the history of South Africa's iconic leaders. Paying tribute to the country's four Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Nelson Mandela, the square features larger-than-life bronze sculptures of these esteemed figures. Created by renowned artist Claudette Schreuders, the sculptures reflect the complexities of post-apartheid South Africa's search for an "African" identity.

Nobel Square at Cape Town's V&A Waterfront pays tribute to Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk, Desmond Tutu and Alfred Luthuli

Nobel Square at Cape Town's V&A Waterfront pays tribute to Alfred Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela

Mandela Memorial Square, Stellenbosch

Located in front of Stellenbosch's Town Hall and Council Chambers, Mandela Memorial Square showcases an innovative design by local landscape artist Strijdom van der Merwe. The sculpture incorporates silhouettes of Mandela's face, intricately laser-cut from iron and erected on concrete blocks. Each side of the exhibit is symbolic of his life, including a map of locations that were significant to him.

Mandela's gentle yet profound wisdom is forever etched on the marble, honouring his legacy.

"Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another." – Nelson Mandela

Local artist, Strijdom van der Merwe, crafted this exquite statue in front of the Stellenbosch town hall

Local artist Strijdom van der Merwe crafted this exquisite statue in front of the Stellenbosch town hall

Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg

After immersing yourself in the story of Mandela's struggles, a visit to Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg's Sandton district offers a chance to unwind in a vibrant setting.

This bustling square, featuring an impressive statue of a dancing Mandela, provides a delightful contrast to the challenges he faced. With its European-style piazza, alfresco restaurants, and diverse shopping options, the square celebrates the joyful triumph of Mandela over oppression and the lively urban life of Johannesburg.

This statue reflects Madiba's vibrant spirit, captured as he dances the Madibe Jive

This statue reflects Madiba's spirit, captured as he dances the Madibe Jive

Visit the Place Nelson Mandela Called Home

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela

While Nelson Mandela's legacy will undoubtedly continue to reverberate around the world, its impact is particularly profound right here in South Africa, a nation adorned with destinations that bore witness to Nelson Mandela's extraordinary life and enduring legacy. By visiting these sites, we not only honour Mandela's legacy but also gain a deeper understanding of the journey that South Africa has undertaken to become the vibrant and diverse nation it is today.

If you're fascinated by Nelson Mandela's journey and would like to see more of his, and our, beautiful home, reach out to one of our Rhino Africa Travel Experts.

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About the author 

Savannah St Claire

Born in the picturesque City of Cape Town, Savannah is no stranger to the beauty and adventure Africa has to offer. With a bachelor's degree in Digital Marketing under her belt and a passion for travelling in her heart, she is taking to her new path in life like a moth to a flame. When not chasing sunsets, you'll find her enjoying the finer things in life and South African wines are no exception!

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