It’s difficult to write about a man that every writer worth any salt has written about. This is the man who would have been 100 years old this year.
His name is Nelson Mandela. I first had a close encounter with the man in 1997 when Baker Avenue in Central Harare, Zimbabwe was renamed Nelson Mandela Avenue. Mandela attended the ceremony at the invitation of Robert Mugabe, then then President of Zimbabwe.
In South Africa and the world over, Nelson Mandela’s legacy will forever be that of a man who ended apartheid rule in South Africa. For a country that had operated for so long in isolation and sanctions, this meant that very few people were interested in visiting the country.
All that changed and South Africa claimed its place amongst other countries as a major tourist destination. Mandela selflessly led his country as a multi-racial democracy until he retired after serving one term as President. It is difficult to mention South Africa or just to think of South Africa without involving Nelson Mandela in that thought process.
The legacy that he left behind and the tourism opportunities that the country now enjoys is hugely contributed to him. The man is credited for the turnaround of South Africa from one of the world’s worst performing tourism industries relative to its attractions to a welcoming and attractive tourist destination.
I was part of the international media hosted by The South African Tourism department to be part of their tourism commemoration. Travelling through the country from Johannesburg to Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, one gets the feeling that there is no place on earth that is so endowed with natural beauty.
From the mountains of Western Cape to the beaches of Eastern Cape and the wildlife and marine life, every step is breath taking. South Africans from all walks of life just love Mandela, the loving spirit of Nelson Mandela lives in them.
The people have been captured by the spirit of the man everyone calls Madiba.
Not only them, every person who knows or has read about Mandela has got that spirit of love in them. Such was evident in our media group, from Germany to Argentina to Britain, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana – we were bound together by the spirit of Nelson Mandela.
We traced Mandela’s journey from his home in Drakenstein, Western Cape after his release from Robben Island- a place he served 27 years of imprisonment. There, we met a prison warden who has taken it upon himself to narrate his side of Mandela. We explored the whole house from his living room, the kitchen, study room and bedroom.
The furniture and bed that Mandela used is still intact and still in the house.
Nelson Mandela’s prime legacy is undoubtedly his work ending apartheid in South Africa, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. But his legacy also includes the revival of South Africa as a tourism destination.
The was no doubt after one week’s journey of re-tracing Mandela’s footsteps from Johannesburg to Soweto and to the Western Cape -that the ‘Mandela effect’ is still very much alive and will continue for years to come.
For someone travelling to South Africa, a Mandela Legacy tour, including Johannesburg and Soweto and the Western Cape (where he was transformed from political prisoner to President), is a journey through a remarkable man’s life. A long walk to freedom for the man and his country.
Soweto : After Mandela left Alexandra, he eventually moved to the nearby township of Soweto. He lived at 8115 Vilakazi Street on and off from 1946 to 1962 (part of that time with second wife Winnie), and the house is now a museum. Interestingly, Archbishop Desmond Tutu also lived on Vilakazi Street for a time, making it the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Peace Prize winners.