Mandela capture site to become museum
8 August 2011
The site near Howick, outside Pietermaritzburg, where Nelson Mandela was captured by the apartheid authorities 49 years ago is to be turned into a museum and multipurpose theatre celebrating the place and time that marked the start of the great man's long walk to freedom.
Mandela was arrested three kilometres outside Howick on the R103, the main road to Johannesburg, on 5 August 1962.
This dramatic and historic moment followed Mandela's clandestine visit to African National Congress (ANC) President Chief Albert Luthuli's Groutville home to report back to him on his African odyssey and call for support for the armed struggle against apartheid.
The uMngeni municipality, with the assistance of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, has acquired the property adjacent to the capture site on the R103 and has commissioned a plan for the establishment of a museum, multipurpose theatre and amphitheatre.
On Friday, to kick off the initial phase of this plan, the Apartheid Museum, in association with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, opened an exhibition on the site entitled Mandela: Leader, Comrade, Negotiator, Prisoner, Statesman.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has committed R8-million to the project. R4-million was spent on acquiring the farm, while the rest will go towards planning, development and procuring a Mandela statue.
"The Nelson Mandela capture site is one of the most important sites in the quest to free our nation," Cogta MEC Nomsa Dube said at the launch event on Friday.
"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."
'Ensure that not only my name is elevated'
At the time of his arrest, Mandela was driving an Austin Westminster from Groutville with his friend and comrade, Cecil Williams. They were en route to visit 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 and arrested him. He was only released 27 years later.
Mandla Mandela, a Member of Parliament 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 own relationship with the grandfather he barely knew for such a long time.
He said his family was proud and honoured by the lans for the museum. He also brought a message from his famous grandfather.
"I spoke to him today, 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," Mandla said.
He said Mandela 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 were buried there and had made their contributions to that city (Port Elizabeth).
Verne Harris from the Nelson Mandela Foundation said the capture site had great significance.
'He learnt to understand the Afrikaner people'
"It demonstrates his willingness to sacrifice," Harris said. "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."
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."
Bizos urged young people 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."
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 that he was enjoying the lessons on culture, life and Mandela's journey he is getting from the man himself.