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A Taste of the History of South Africa (B)

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 itís doctrine and illustrating the differences as well as the similarities of our cultures. We visit "Beirut", the site of massive unrest in the 80ís and 90ís, 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 Mbekiís birthplace, the Zulu menís 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 Mandelaís first home in Gauteng, a Traditional Healer, the home of one of the first Gang members of the 40ís, the Community Centre, traditional food preparation of "smileyís" 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 Hubertís 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 40ís 50ís and early 60ís 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 itís 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 Mandelaís book "Long Walk to Freedom", the farm was the scene of the Rivonia Raid in 1963, and was Nelson Mandelís home when on the run from the authorities as the "Black Pimpernel".

The full story of the events leading up to the raid, Nelson Mandelaís 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 Mandelaís 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, itís 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.

Voortrekker Monument

The Voortrekker Monument is one of the most fascinating and imposing monuments in the world. A visit to this monument allows for an understanding of some of the history of this country and provides an insight into the motivations and reasons for the attitudes amongst many whites in this country. Visitors are provided with a background to events which led to the decision to build the monument.

We outline the political structures in place at that time, the role of the Broederbond and the re-creation of the Great trek in 1938 and the reasons for it. We discuss the physical and symbolic aspects of the Monument in detail to understand itís importance to the Afrikaner people and how to many it still represents a symbol of apartheid.

Robin telling the story of the Voortrekker Monument
Robin telling the story of the Voortrekker Monument.
Inside the Monument the detail is explained and the importance of December 16th highlighted and illustrated. The various treks from Trichard to Retief are recounted in story form. The 27 panels (made out of Italian Marble and the largest of itís kind in the world) representing the story of the Voortrekkers are shown with explanations given, with the focus on the killing of Retief and his men by Zulu King Dingaan. The personalities of the two men are examined and the killing of Retief and the reasons for his death explained from a traditional white history perspective as well as the more recent Zulu perspective. Visitors are left to decide whether the event was murder or execution?

The massacre at Weenen, the death of trekker leader Uys and the role of Pretorious are explained and the role of the women highlighted. The taking of the Vow is dealt with and the subsequent battle at Blood River described in vivid detail, leaving the visitor with the feeling that they had actually been there! The final exodus of the trekkers from Natal to escape the British is explained and the signing of the Sand River Convention explained.

The museum with the "Flame of Civilisation" is visited and the wonderful tapestry telling the story of the Trek shown. Finally, visitors travel to the top of the monument where a beautiful view of Pretoria and surrounds can be enjoyed.

Vlakplaas

This is not a conventional tourist destination!

Vlakplaas was the home of the "Death Squads" during the 80ís & 90ís. Special permission has been obtained to take visitors to Vlakplaas. It is believed that more than 1000 people met their deaths as a result of the operations of the operatives and Askaris from Vlakplaas. The visitor is told the stories of torture and assassination, as a small group of men who believed that they were supported by the politicians and Generals, carried out acts of murder and assassination in the belief that they were defending the country from Communism.

We examine and explain the roles of Dirk Coetzee, Eugene de Kock, the commanders of Vlakplaas, as well as others. Some of the killings are explained in detail. The Harmse Commission and the attempts to murder Dirk Coetzee are described. The rooms and areas where certain events took place are visited and shown. The Braai area and the recreational area of the farm are visited.

The three phases of the life of the "Badger unit" are outlined. The role of "turning" ANC operatives into Askaris, the role of "fighting organised crime in Hillbrow" and the role in crime and gun-running are examined. The Third Force activities culminating in the arrest of Eugene de Kock in 1994 and his subsequent sentencing to 212 years plus two life sentences in prison are also examined.

The Government's role in the activities at Vlakplaas, and the role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are discussed. Extracts from the testimony provided by Eugene de Kock and Dirk Coetzee are presented. The link between the attitudes of the operatives at Vlakplaas with the 16th December is made. Throughout, parallels are drawn with what was happening in the rest of the world at that time.

N.B. This visit is not suitable for children.

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