Mandela's house receives a R9mil facelift

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Johannesburg - The old house of former South African President Nelson Mandela at Orlando West in Soweto has received a R9 million facelift to meet the standards of a national heritage site.

The house was declared a national heritage site in 1999, however it did not meet the heritage and tourism attraction standards in terms of management, conservation and visitor experience.

In order to meet the standards, the site needed a number of improvements such as a new visitor centre displaying memorabilia, paintings and photographs of the Mandela family.

Opening the newly renovated house on Thursday, Gauteng Premier Paul Mashatile said the Mandela house stood as a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit against all adversities.

He said the house also symbolised the victory of people united by a common desire for freedom and equality for all over a system condemned by all of humanity.

Mr Mashatile said the four-roomed house also stands as a monument, reminding the nation about their unhappy past, but also reminding them about the power of reconciliation and nation building.

"With this initiative, we are seeking to preserve Madiba's legacy as well as to ensure that it is passed on to the future generations in the country and the entire world.

"His (Mandela) selfless sacrifices made it possible for us to achieve freedom in our lifetime. We remain indebted to you and your generation of leaders and we pledge to uphold your proud legacy," he said.

Renovations to the house were conducted by the Soweto Heritage Trust, in partnership with Standard Bank and Anglo American, who each contributed R2.25 million to the project.

The opening ceremony was attended by Mandela's former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, their two daughters, the family's grandchildren, business people, politicians and neighbours. However, Mr Mandela was unable to attend the event.

His daughter Zinzi, accompanied by her sister Zenani, delivered a speech on their father's behalf, in which Mr Mandela described his former family home as a "heritage, not only for his family, but for all the people of Soweto".

In his message Mr Mandela said: "The heritage of this humble dwelling is of course one of struggle and sacrifice, but it is also one that demonstrates the ability of the human spirit to triumph over adversity.

"It is the heritage not only of one family, but that of all the people of Soweto and of our nation who refused to bow down to tyranny or succumb to bitterness," the message read.

He further said it was fitting that number 8115 Ngakane Street should become part of a community of institutions dedicated to ensuring that the country's history was preserved and made accessible to future generations.

"There is much we can learn from the past as we chart the future. This was the vision which informed our decision to place the property in the custody of the Trust originally.

"Congratulations to all the dedicated fundraisers, funders, researchers, designers and curators who have made this possible. We wish you every success in this important endeavour," Mr Mandela said in his message.

He also thanked the Soweto Heritage Trust for undertaking the restoration refurbishment and upgrading of his family's old Soweto property.

The house is also situated next to Desmond Tutu's house in Vilakazi Street as well as the Regina Mundi church and Morris Isaacson High School where the 1976 student uprising began.

All this makes Orlando West a significant precinct that people should visit in order to understand the history of the ant-apartheid movement.