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A Taste of the History of South Africa (A)

Alexandra Township

Eating vetkoek in Alexandra township
Eating vetkoek in Alexandra Township.
Here we see a vibrant and exciting community. After eating "vet-koek" on the street, we pass the ZCC church explaining it’s doctrine and illustrating the differences as well as the similarities of our cultures. We visit "Beirut", the site of massive unrest in the 80’s and 90’s, where we explain the background to and the detail of the violence which swept the townships at this time. We also visit Presidential Flats, Mrs Mbeki’s birthplace, the Zulu men’s Hostel "Khayalethu", where we see examples of job creation programmes. The history of the Hostels and their role in Apartheid is explained in detail.

We explain how the social structure of the "yard system" and the "gangs" had such an effect on events leading up to change in 1994. We discuss the 1.3 billion rands that has been spent, as a Presidential initiative, on reconstruction and development of Alexandra.

We see Nelson Mandela’s first home in Gauteng, a Traditional Healer, the home of one of the first Gang members of the 40’s, the Community Centre, traditional food preparation of "smiley’s" and "skop", one of the prison gang members, the Athletes' Village from African Games, and River Park, the first houses of the "displaced people."

We visit the building used by the "1916 Health Committee", St Hubert’s Catholic Church: Holy Cross Convent and the oldest Beer Hall in the township. The "Chinaman", and "The Rocks of Alex" are visited (if we are lucky) and their stories told. We capture the spirit of Alexandra and the struggle of the man on the street to earn a living wage. Throughout the drive through Alexandra we are accompanied by Mphane, a local resident.

Depending upon the interest of clients we also visit an initiative run by Investec Bank and partnered by NOAH, where 395 HIV/Aids orphans are cared for on a daily basis. We can also visit Ba-Amogaleng a pre-school facility where 48 2-6 year olds are cared for by members of the community.

Guests participate in a short ceremony whereby we demonstrate how everyone can contribute towards improving society. The history of the places seen and the township are explained and shown in an interesting and interactive manner, providing an understanding of the diverse cultures of the country.

Liliesleaf Farm, scene of the Rivonia Raid

Rob telling the story of the Rivonia Raid at Liliesleaf Farm
Rob telling the story of the Rivonia Raid at Liliesleaf Farm.
After a brief synopsis of political developments in the 40’s 50’s and early 60’s we visit Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia. This is one of the most important historical sites in the history of the struggle in South Africa.

Liliesleaf was the secret hide-out of the ANC and the Communist party where the final raid led to the leaders of the movement being sentenced to life imprisonment and where the armed wing of the African National Congress was born. The Farm, currently being restored to it’s former state and turned into a Museum, was chosen by the Communist Party and the ANC in 1961 as a suitable place to have their meetings to plan the overthrow of the apartheid government. Featured prominently in Nelson Mandela’s book "Long Walk to Freedom", the farm was the scene of the Rivonia Raid in 1963, and was Nelson Mandel’s home when on the run from the authorities as the "Black Pimpernel".

The full story of the events leading up to the raid, Nelson Mandela’s life at the farm and the story of the raid are told in detail. We discuss the individuals who participated and the escape of two of the accused, Wolpe and Goldreich. The rooms used are pointed out and the coal bunker, shortwave radio mast, and safe shown. The actual trial and events during the trial are described in broad terms and the events leading up to the sentencing of the Rivonia Trialists detailed. The consequences of the Raid are explained and examined.

The Fort, the Constitutional Court and Prison No. 4

We visit and discuss in detail the Old Fort and "Number Four", the prison in which representatives of practically every political persuasion in our history, as well as common criminals, murderers, rebellion leaders, and innocent people have been incarcerated. Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, General de Wet, Winnie Mandela, Winston Churchill, Joe Slovo, the Foster gang, Daisy de Melker (the infamous murderess), Taffy Long, Stassen and many, many others were imprisoned here during the period 1902-1983.

We visit Nelson Mandela’s hospital ward. We see the Awaiting Trial Block and listen to the protest songs that were sung by the inmates. The cells, the solitary confinement cells, and the communal cells with their exhibits are visited and anecdotes told. We discuss living conditions in the prison. This is a look at the grim and cruel past of South Africa.

We then move into the present and the future. We visit the Constitution Court and discuss the role it plays in our society, it’s history and structure, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The building of the court is explained and the role of the Judges in designing the most progressive Court in the world. The structure and architectural aspects are explained and shown. Visitors are taken into the Courtroom and the room is explained. We also visit the Art exhibition as well as the special exhibition to Nelson Mandela.

The Apartheid Museum

During this tour Robin Binckes outlines his own background, having grown up in the Apartheid era. The full tour of the Museum is conducted by Robin with explanations of the exhibits, the thinking of the people at the time as well as some of the history behind Apartheid.

Visitors share in some of the fears and concerns which contributed to the growth and entrenchment of apartheid, through the eyes and experience of someone who benefited from the apartheid era. Robin, who was in the Navy at the time of Sharpville and who became a Peace Monitor in the townships in the 90’s in the build up to the elections recounts his own experiences and subsequent transformation.

The miracle of April 27th, 1994 is explained in detail and the role of people like Nelson Mandela, F.W de Klerk, Bishop Tutu is discussed. The Truth and Reconciliation Hearings and process are also discussed.

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