I recently visited the Nelson Mandela Capture site just outside Howick for the first time on the way back to Johannesburg after spending a week in KwaZulu Natal.
It was where he (Madiba) was finally captured by apartheid police on 5 August 1962 after being on the run for 16-17 months. He was pretending to be a chauffeur to his comrade Cecil Williams who was accompanying him. They had just paid a clandestine visit to ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli in Groutville to report back on Madiba’s activities in the preceding months, when police flagged him down on this lonely country road and arrested him. This arrest was one of several that eventually led to the Rivonia Treason Trial and his imprisonment for 27 years.
The site was officially unveiled on 5 August 2012 by President Jacob Zuma, on the 50th anniversary of the capture. It consists of a museum commemorating Madiba’s life and his transformation from a school boy to a freedom fighter, prisoner and President. This is followed by a walk to the monument, aptly titled the Long Walk to Freedom. There is also a shop and a café, titled Truth Café, on the premises. The site was being upgraded while we were there and construction was taking place.
The actual monument is an impressive work of art constructed by South African artist Marco Cianfanelli. It is made up of 50 steel columns between 6 and 10 metres high, strategically arranged next to each other. They look like a random collection of columns until you get to the footpath 35 metres away when Madiba’s profile facing West magically appears – against the backdrop of the rolling hills and valleys of the Kwazulu Natal Midlands. As you get even closer to the monument, the columns once again dissolve into a forest.
Looking at the profile, the events of that fateful day in 1962 came flooding back to me and I was reminded of Madiba’s bravery and courage and what he had to endure to bring freedom to South Africa.
To get to the monument from Johannesburg, you need to take the Tweedie Road turn-off near Howick, on the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg. Turn right on the R103. The sculpture is 5 minutes from the N3 turnoff and is well signposted.
You can also follow the directions to the Mandela Monument on the GPS.
Entrance to the monument is free at the moment but donations are appreciated.
For more information, go to http://www.thecapturesite.co.za
You can also download the Madibas Journey app which tells you more about this site and other sites of historical significance.