Mandela capture site, museum launched

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal intends on offering the world an opportunity to experience a part of Nelson Mandela's history when they launched an exhibition and plans for the capture site.

The former president was arrested along the R103 near Howick, outside Pietermaritzburg, 49 years ago, on August 5.

The KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), who funded this project, celebrated the significance of the day by unveiling its plans for the site.

The uMngeni Municipality and CoGTA bought the property adjacent to the capture site on the R103.

CoGTA has committed R8 million to the project - R4 million have been spent on acquiring the farm and the rest will go towards planning, development and also procuring a Mandela statue.

"The Nelson Mandela Capture Site is one of the most important sites in the quest to free our nation. It allows us an opportunity to follow the footprints of a man whose long walk to freedom suffered a temporary set-back in these hills," said CoGTA MEC Nomsa Dube.

The development will include a museum, a multipurpose theatre and an amphitheatre.

For now, there is a revamped shed, which houses a beautiful exhibition on Mandela's life and a video in which Mandela takes people through the details of his capture.

At the time, Mandela was driving an Austin Westminster from Groutville with his friend and comrade Cecil Williams.

They were en-route to visit then ANC president Albert Luthuli to discuss the ANC's position on non-racialism. When they were stopped by police, Mandela insisted he was David Motsamayi.
But the police recognised him though and he was arrested on August 5, 1962. He was only released 27 years later.

Mandla Mandela, an MP and the grandson of the former president represented the family at the occasion.

He spoke about the impact Mandela's arrest had on the family and his personal relationship with a grandfather he barely knew for a long time.

He said his family was very proud and felt honoured by plans for the museum. He also brought a message from his famous grandfather. "I spoke to him today (on Friday) and he said you must insist and ensure that not only my name is elevated, because there are ordinary men and women who were with me through this journey, who sacrificed more than me in the struggle," said Mandla.

Mandela's grandson said the former president also mentioned that in Port Elizabeth, stalwarts like the late Govan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba, should have been considered when the metropolitan was named.

Mandela said Mbeki and Mhlaba are buried there and made their contributions to that city (Port Elizabeth).

Verne Harris from the Nelson Mandela Foundation said the capture site had great significance.

"It demonstrates his willingness to sacrifice. He was travelling through Africa but he came back to the country to lead the underground movement. He went to prison and learnt the Afrikaans language and everything about Afrikaans nationalism," said Harris.

Later on, Mandela would use his knowledge and understanding of the Afrikaner people when he negotiated with them following his release from prison.

Advocate George Bizos took the small crowd down memory lane with his meticulous details of what Mandela was like when they studied together. He also relayed stories of his visits to Robben Island.

Bizos was part of the defence team that represented Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Govan Mbeki at the Rivonia trial.

He said one of his regrets was not being able to keep the freedom fighters out of prison.
"He (Mandela) used to always tell me, don't worry, we will be free in three years but it went onto 27 years. But that is the optimism he lived with throughout the struggle," said Bizos.

He urged the youth to learn about the legacy of Mandela. "Before any young people claim to be the keeper of the Nelson Mandela's legacy they need to read books, I appeal to all civic officials and educators to teach the truth about Nelson Mandela," he added.

Meanwhile, Mandela is getting lots of rest and enjoying his leisure time in the company of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"When we go out he asks us where we are going. If we tell him we are going to look at the cattle, he asks how many cattle we have and he jokingly asks to go with us. It is very nice to be with him," said Mandla.

His grandson added he is enjoying the lessons on culture, life and Mandela's journey being taught by the icon himself.