Remembering Kathrada: 5 Iconic South African Heritage sites to visit

2017-03-28 11:23 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Ahmed Kathrada. Foto: Gallo Images

Cape Town - South Africa lost one of our last remaining struggle stalwarts, Ahmed Kathrada, on Tuesday morning, 28 March. Read News24's full coverage here

In the wake of the immense loss, South Africans can only aspire to have the same compassion and selflessness as these leaders - now revered as our freedom heritage ancestors.  

As one of the key figures in the fight for freedom and equality and one of the last remaining Rivonia Trialists, 'Uncle Kathy' as he was affectionately known, was sentenced to life in prison along with his dear friend former president Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki  - to mention a few. 

Despite this life term, Kathrada and most of the other freedom fighters never advocated revenge or bitterness - their lives were instead a beacon of reconciliation and forgiveness.  And as a new generation of South Africans, we should reflect on the lives of these great South Africans that came before us. 

Luckily, there are many cultural and heritage landmarks to remind us of our true, compassionate spirit of Ubuntu. 

Here are 5 Iconic cultural and heritage experiences every South African needs to experience at least once in their life... 

Do a guided tour of Robben Island 

This is one of the most poignant landmarks to visit for insight into SA's apartheid past and yet, many South Africans have yet to take the ferry from Cape Town V&A Waterfront. 

The current guides of the Robben Island are the old prisoners themselves... the late Ahmed Kathrada even conducted selected tours there

Sadly, the time will come when visitors to Robben Island will no longer be able to hear accounts of imprisonment and freedom fighting from the sources themselves. However the Robben Island Museum is doing its utmost to document the old prisoners' detailed memories and stories using modern technology, a virtual experience will struggle to live up to listening to SA's most valued freedom fighters in person. 

READ: Google Maps and Robben Island Museum combine history with technology 

You can see and listen to some of the real-life accounts from ex-prisoners of Robben Island here

A visit to Soweto 

Soweto, as South Africa's oldest township, lets you immerse yourself in an authentic cultural and heritage tour.  As of late it has become a vibrant tourist hub, and rightfully so. 

Vilakazi Street, for example, is the most famous street in Soweto and it the only street in the world to have had two Nobel prize winners - Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu - as its residents. 

SEE: A holiday in Soweto?

While Soweto pays tribute to old leaders like Tutu and Madiba, it's also very much on the forefront of where SA is headed as a tourist destination and also a unified country. 

ALSO SEE: 7 Places you need to visit in Soweto

Reflect in Qunu - the childhood home of Madiba 

This little, quiet village in the Eastern Cape was where SA's ‘Father of the Nation’ grew up. Today, not much has changed... but Qunu offers a valuable insight into SA's history. 

The Nelson Mandela Museum is a newly erected yet modest exhibition building overlooking the tiny villages surrounding Qunu, giving the first glimpse of Madiba's simple, rural upbringing. 

SEE: 4 Reasons to visit Nelson Mandela’s hometown, Qunu

In the museum, world-renowned photographs of the world leader are mounted on the walls and tell the story of his life. 

However, Madiba's life - where it began and the impact it made - lies far beyond the walls of this place of remembrance.... The museum humbly illustrates the sacrifices Nelson Mandela had to make to become the world leader he was - and every South African needs to see this. 

Spend time at the Howick Capture site 

When Madiba was captured on 5 August 1962, the event was considered a victory. 

But much has changed since 1962, thankfully, and the Nelson Mandela Capture Site serves as a shining example of how our history can be reshaped to be equal and inclusive of all South Africans. 

The sculpture itself is something to behold... the black bars, symbolic of the 27 year's Mandela spent in prison, obstruct the yellow landscape in the background and only reveal the full picture when you move in close enough... 

ALSO SEE: 53rd Anniversary of Mandela capture site hallmarked with grand precinct plan 

See hope for a new generation of leaders at the Biko Museum 

Steve Bantu Biko formed part of a new generation of freedom fighters in SA and he too dedicated his life and was instrumental in creating a movement towards a free South Africa.  

Biko was murdered in police custody in the prime of his life but fought for equality and freedom until the very end. And more than that, he ushered in the next generation of South Africans to fight for equal rights. 

More than two decades after the fall of apartheid, this is still a South Africa we aspire to. And if you feel hopeless and despondent that this might not be where SA is heading, a visit to the Steve Biko Centre in King William’s Town is a must. 

SEE: Why all South Africans should visit the Steve Biko Centre in King William’s Town 

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