Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God bless Africa) was originally composed as hymn in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a teacher at a methodist mission school near Johannesburg. The song became the official anthem of the African National Congress (ANC) and a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. It came to represent the suffering of the oppressed and was considered the unofficial national anthem of South Africa.
Because of its connection to the ANC, the song was banned by the apartheid government. In 1997 — three years after apartheid ended — Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was combined with the former South African anthem,Die Stem van Suid Afrika (The Voice of South Africa) — to form a new national anthem, which is still sung in South Africa today.
Today I journey through the history of South Africa, beginning from the house the sits on the highest hill of Pretoria – The Union Building. Like a castle on a hill, the Union Buildings tower over the Pretoria city centre. The buildings are situated near the top of Meintjieskop and from this vantage point a visitor has uninterrupted views of Pretoria’s tall skyscrapers and the surrounding jacaranda-lined suburbs. Also clearly visible on some of the opposite hills cradling the city are two other landmarks: Freedom Park and the Voortrekker Monument. It sits on very a green land, with its face looking onto the daughter hill that hosts the Voortrekker Monument, another symbol of the apartheid struggle.
Unfortunately the inside of the buildings are not open to the public but visitors can walk right up to them, while the terraced gardens and lawns present many spots and angles from which to photograph this magnificent structure. During the day there are arts and crafts for sale next to the parking area and one might even spot a local artists busy sketching pictures of their surroundings. The public spaces are open until late in the evening and the parking area and grounds are well patrolled by police. At night many people come here by car for a quick stop to enjoy the view of city’s night lights. People are allowed to have picnics, walks, take pictures and enjoy the environs of this place.
Sitting on a 52 hectare undeveloped hill overlooking the city of Pretoria. It was here that the nation’s heroes would be honoured and the complex story of South Africa and its people would be told. Freedom Park is a memorial to honour those who sacrificed their lives to win freedom. It also celebrates and explores the country’s diverse peoples, and our common humanity. A tour around the park brings you closer to nature, and indoor are filled with education through videos, pieces of artifacts that are rich in the history of the apartheid struggle.
This majestic monument sits in a nature reserve and is easily visible for all who arrive in the tshwane region by road. Our trip was derailed by a tire puncture, but in no time, we found help from a guy who works here, and the tour began. The monument was built to honour God, under the leadership of Paul Kruger, then the president of South Africa. The Cenotaph, situated in the centre of the Cenotaph Hall, is the central focus of the monument. In addition to being viewable from the Hall of Heroes it can also be seen from the dome at the top of the building, from where much of the interior of the monument can be viewed. Our tour guide says that the person who sat here in the monument decided who sits at the union building and the fact that its easy to see the monument from union building, they would be reminded everytime who put them there.
The Apartheid Museum is hosted at the Gold Reef City in Johannesburg. A consortium, called Akani Egoli (Gold Reef City), put in a bid that included the commitment to building a museum. Their bid was successful, the Gold Reef City Casino was built and an adjacent piece of land given for the construction of a museum. Taking picture inside the Museum is prohibited but there is a lot to learn. The tour takes at least three hours, taking you through the history of the struggle, the life and work of Nelson Mandela, the Rivonia Trial, apartheid machine and many more.
8115 Vilakazi Street and Hector Pieterson Museum
8115 Vilakazi Street in Orlando West might be the most visited house address in South Africa, but am not certain. This was home for Nelson Mandela before he went to prison and 11 days after he came out of prison. His wife Winnie and the children kept staying here while the husband was serving a prison term at the Robben Island Prison. If you were here a while back, you will notice that the house has been renovated to prevent it from falling apart, but the walls represent the original house built in 1945. Vilakazi street attracts all activities, this is where young South Africans who have made it in life come to enjoy the weekend, displaying their expensive toys on the roads while they occupy different restaurants that run through the street.
Kliptown Open Air Museum
The Kliptown Air Museum is where delegates to the congress of people met to adopt the freedom charter in 1955. This is now the cornerstone of the bill of rights and the South African Constitution. The museum and square is dedicated to Walter Sisulu, a Stalwart of the freedom struggle.
There are many places I haven’t visited, I hope I will have a chance to do that on my next visit here in South Africa. My vacation has not ended, will be headed to Amanzimtoti for Christmas, and travel back to Johannesburg to prepare my travel back home. So you still be seeing me around. See you in KwaZulu Natal.