Today the world will celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela, with 18 July marking International Nelson Mandela Day #MandelaDay.
The South African activist and former president, Mandela helped bring an end to apartheid and has been a global advocate for human rights. A member of the African National Congress party beginning in the 1940s, he was a leader of both peaceful protests and armed resistance against the white minority’s oppressive regime in a racially divided South Africa.
His actions landed him in prison for nearly three decades and made him the face of the antiapartheid movement both within his country and internationally. Released in 1990, he participated in the eradication of apartheid and in 1994 became the first black president of South Africa. After retiring from politics in 1999, he remained a devoted champion for peace and social justice in his own nation and around the world until his death in 2013 at the age of 95.
Nelson Mandela touched the world with his inspirational story and now his legacy can live on in all that visit South Africa.
From the rolling hills and scattered villages of Qunu in the Eastern Cape, the prison cells of Robben Island, to the sacred sidewalk on Vilakazi Street in Soweto – follow in the footsteps to freedom of South Africa’s most iconic hero.
Here are some of the best spots across South Africa that will allow you to experience some of Mandela’s favourite travel spots that have strong historical and social ties to his life.
Take a journey into the life of Nelson Mandela, starting with Eastern Cape where he was born and Vilakazi Street where he lived as a young lawyer, to the Nelson Mandela capture site where he was found and detained on Robben Island, spending two decades as a political prisoner.
Known as “Jacaranda City” for its thousands of jacaranda trees, Pretoria is also known for its universities and government buildings. The semicircular Union Buildings encompass the president’s offices and hosted Nelson Mandela’s inauguration. Nearby is the massive Voortrekker Monument, honouring 19th-century Afrikaans settlers from the Cape Colony.
Nelson Mandela Capture Site
Embark on a journey of the Midlands and Nelson Mandela capture site. Walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela as you journey to the rustic place where he was captured more than 50 years ago. The Nelson Mandela capture site is now a powerful and poignant memorial to a critical moment in South African history – and the start of Mandela’s 27 years in captivity. Marco Cianfanelli’s Mandela memorial art is marvel to watch.
Soweto and Mandela House
Experience the feel of township life in Soweto before getting to The Mandela House. Learn why the Mandela house is known as a match box house. Then walk down the streets of Soweto at Vilakazi where your tour guide will be accompanying you to the same street which is the only one street in the whole world that has produced two Nobel Peace Prize winners. Go visit Hector Peterson Memorial, where you will learn about the bravery of the students who went down as heroes in 1976, by protesting against the language of Afrikaans as a primary language of instructions at schools. Find out about the turbulent killings of the students as you go to The Regina Mundi Church to witness the bullet holes. Visit The Freedom Park where the Freedom Charter of South Africa was drawn
For nearly 400 years, Robben Island, about 12 kilometres from Cape Town, was a place of exile where rulers sent those they regarded as outcasts and troublemakers. During the apartheid years Robben Island was used to isolate opponents of apartheid and to crush their morale. Freedom fighters, like Nelson Mandela, spent more than a quarter of a century in prison for their beliefs. Since 1997 Robben Island has been a museum acting as a focal point of South African heritage. Daily tours of about 4 hours long, including the two half-hour ferry rides are offered (weather permitting) from the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town. In 1999 the island was declared a World Heritage Site.