Top Nelson Mandela sites to visit in South Africa

Top Nelson Mandela sites to visit in South Africa

Mandela capture site

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was the founding father of democracy in South Africa, Noble Peace Prize winner, freedom fighter and human rights activist among other accomplishments. He was the first black head of state and elected president in post-apartheid South Africa.

Mandela’s legacy can be explored at numerous locations throughout South Africa and this article focuses on some of the top destinations.

Robben Island – A short boat ride form Cape Town, Robben island was used between the 17th century and the 20th century as a prison. Used extensively during apartheid to house political prisoners, most notable of which was Nelson Mandela who spent 18 of his 27-year imprisonment on Robben Island. Today, the prison is a museum where you can tour the island and learn more about the islands 500-year history.

Nelson Mandela Capture Site – For 17 months Nelson Mandela avoided capture, but on August 5, 1962, he was arrested on a nondescript road in the KwaZulu-Natal province. The arrest lead to his 27-year imprisonment where he used his time to shed light on the inequalities and unfair treatment happening within South Africa. Today a shape shifting steel sculpture marks the spot where he was arrested. Before arriving at the sculpture, which sits close to the road, you will walk down a long winding path which represents the long walk to freedom. The museum at the capture site offers insight into the events leading up to the arrest.

Mandela House (The Nelson Mandela National Museum) – Situated on Vilakazi Street, Orlando West Soweto, Mandela house is where Mandela, with then wife Winnie, spent the initial days following his release from prison in 1990. “That night I returned with Winnie to No. 8115 in Orlando West. It was only then that I knew in my heart I had left prison. For me No. 8115 was the center point of my world, the place marked with an X in my mental geography.” In 1997 Mandela donated the house to the Soweto Heritage Trust to be run as a museum. In 2007 the house went under extensive repairs but still hosts original furnishings, bullet holes and scorch marks from attacks with Molotov cocktails.

Liliesleaf Farm – The farm situated in the suburbs of Johannesburg was used by African National Congress activists in the 1960’s to host secret meetings. This is also the site where many prominent African National Congress activists were arrested in 1963. Documents found during the raid laid out plans to use violence to end Apartheid and were later used as evidence against Mandela and others to prove plans to sabotage and overthrow the government. This lead to Mandela’s life long prison sentence.

Nelson Mandela Museum – Comprised of three main buildings, the museum showcases the life of Nelson Mandela from birth to his passing in 2013. Located in the Eastern Cape province, this is the area where Mandela was born. The first building, Bhunga, exhibits Mandela’s life in his own words with parts taken directly from his biography.

The Apartheid Museum – The museum showcases the rise and fall of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. There are 22 individual exhibits that take you on a journey through the state-sanctioned system based on racial discrimination and the struggle of the majority the overthrow the government. The museum shows the rise of a new democracy and beacon of hope.

The Nelson Mandela Center of Memory – The Nelson Mandela Foundation, founded in 1999 by Nelson Mandela, is now headquartered at The Nelson Mandela Center of Memory. The mission of the foundation: “To contribute to the making of a just society by promoting the legacy of Nelson Mandela, providing an integrated public information resource on his life and times, and convening dialogue around critical social issues.”