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December 06, 2013

Cape Town’s Mandela landmarks

A bronze statue of Mandela stands outside Groot Drakenstein correctional facility. Photo courtesy Bill Corcoran

Editor's Note: This blog was first published on July 20,2012. Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa and Father of the Nation passed away peacefully on Thursday 5 December,2013.

Without a doubt, one of the most interesting, humbling and thought-provoking day excursions any visitor to Cape Town can undertake involves visiting some of the places around the city associated with Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday 5 December,2013.

All of the prisons the anti-apartheid icon was incarcerated in over the course of his 27 years behind bars are located close to the Mother City, and since his release on February 11, 1990, some of them have been transformed into educational museums that celebrate his legacy.

I remember being sent on assignment two years ago, by the Irish Times newspaper, to the Groot Drakenstein correctional facility (formerly known as the Victor Verster Prison) in the Cape Winelands, where Mandela spent his final months of imprisonment, to write a story about the 20th anniversary of his release.

Cape Town City Hall where Mandela made his first public speech after being released from prison. Photo courtesy Bill Corcoran

While there, I visited the house-turned-museum inside the prison grounds where he lived while awaiting his release. Taking a tour of it helps one reflect on, and contemplate, the nature of self-sacrifice for the greater good. Not many places can do that.

Today a bronze statue of Mandela that shows him defiant, with a raised fist, is located outside the prison entrance. It was placed there to mark the iconic moment in 1990 when he walked out of the prison gates to freedom.

Then there is the well-known Robben Island prison, off Cape Town’s Atlantic seaboard, to which Mandela was banished in 1964 to spend 18 of his 27 incarcerated years in isolation, after he and nine others were found guilty of acts of sabotage against the apartheid government.

The island was granted the status of a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1999. There are usually regular day tours that require a ferry ride to the island, which leaves from the V&A Waterfront.

Also at the V&A Waterfront are four sculptures of South Africa’s Nobel Peace prize laureates. Along with Mandela stand Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African president FW de Klerk.

In Cape Town’s city centre you will find the Cape Town City Hall where, only hours after his release from prison, Mandela made his first public speech from the Edwardian building’s balcony to the thousands of people who gathered to hear him speak. Located on the Grand Parade, it is a striking building that is well worth a look.

Nelson Mandela remains one of a small group of people who have gained the respect and admiration of the world. It would be careless of visitors to Cape Town to miss seeing some of the local landmarks associated with him.

Keen to experience Mandela's Walk to Freedom? Book  a Coffeebeans Routes' Revolution Tour or visit the Nelson Mandela Exhibition at the Civic Centre.

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