Five famous sights in Johannesburg to remember Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela’s death in December re-focused the world’s attention on South Africa: its past, present and future. World leaders flocked to Johannesburg to celebrate the life of a twentieth century hero, a man who fought to bring about equality and bridge the divides between enemies.

If you’re planning a trip to South Africa, chances are you’ll want to experience a bit of Mandela’s legacy. Today our guide Brenda is sharing with us five places in Johannesburg where you can do just that.

Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg
Take time to visit the Apartheid Museum to learn about the rise and fall of a radically prejudiced system that managed to stretch half a century. Exhibits were created by a team of curators, film-makers, historians and designers, so expect to see more than your average museum behind a glass exhibit—its a really powerful story. Situated at Gold Reef City this museum tells the story of Apartheid, its establishment, how it affected South African People of all denominations, colours, and languages and its ultimate fall. Visitors often leave feeling moved and touched by the experience, whether or not they were in South Africa at the time of the Apartheid struggle.

Constitution Hill
Constitution Hill is considered one of the most important historical sites in Johannesburg; this is the sight of the Old Fort Prison Complex, also known as Number Four, notorious during Apartheid. Before Constitutional Hill opened its doors in 2004, the precinct housed the Old Fort Prison complex. The Old Fort, a high security prison built in the 1890’s, originally housed prisoners of war during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902). With the later addition of the “native prison” called “Number Four” and the Women’s Jail, the complex came to be a detention centre for political dissidents, striking mineworkers, those deemed “anti- establishment” and those who simply violated the inhuman pass laws of the time. Former Nelson Mandela and passive resistance leader Mahatma Gandhi were among the many pro-democracy leaders who served time at the infamous prison.

The Nelson Mandela Bridge
The Nelson Mandela Bridge is a relatively new addition to the Johannesburg skyline, but has already gained iconic status, with an impressive 248m span that is lit up in all the colours of the rainbow at night. The bridge, which spans the railway that separates Newtown and Braamfontein, near the city’s central business district, was built in 2003 at a cost of R38-million. Blue IQ, the brains behind the project, was intent on building a bridge that would modernise and rejuvenate the inner city, and inspire locals and foreigners alike with its impressive design. The aim was to link the vibrant Newtown precinct with the Braamfontein business area, providing easy, safe access to the outskirts of the central business district
The bridge doesn’t only honour the name of South Africa’s first democratically elected president; the structure itself is symbolic of Nelson Mandela’s role in bridging the apartheid divide.

Nelson Mandela Bridge is a fantastic place to enjoy views of the city. You can drive across it or, if you prefer to appreciate the view at a slower pace, take a walk on one of the two pedestrian lanes. There is also a bicycle lane to ensure that cyclists are safe while navigating this busy city route.

Nelson Mandela’s former House in Soweto
In Orlando West, on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane streets, visitors will find the modest house that Nelson Mandela and his family called home from 1946 to the 1990s. Mandela lived in the house with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, and, after his divorce, with his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Mandela himself didn’t spend much time at the Vilakazi Street home; his growing role in the anti-apartheid struggle drove him underground before his arrest in 1962. Madikizela-Mandela continued to live in the house with their two daughters, Zenani and Zindzi, until she was banished to the Free State town of Brandfort in 1977. Upon his release from Robben Island in 1990, Mandela moved back to the house for a short 11 days before moving to Houghton, where he currently resides.

The four-roomed home now houses various memorabilia, arts and crafts, honorary doctorates conferred on Mandela and picture collections of the Mandela family.

Lilieleaf Farm In Rivonia
Tucked away in the leafy suburb of Rivonia, Johannesburg is Liliesleaf. Once the nerve centre of the liberation movement and a place of refuge for its leaders, today Liliesleaf is one of South Africa's foremost, award-winning heritage sites, where the journey to democracy in South Africa is honoured.

Liliesleaf has always been a place of dialogue. In the early 1960s, when the property was the headquarters for covert, underground activities and a safe house for many leading figures of the liberation movement, debates on political and military policy and strategy were commonplace. People from diverse backgrounds but with a common vision met here to discuss South Africa's emancipation from an oppressive apartheid regime.

Liliesleaf was purchased in 1961, at a time when the apartheid state started to clamp down more forcibly on the liberation movement. As a 'nerve centre' of liberation activities, the meetings that took place at Liliesleaf from 1961 to July 1963, and the events that transpired after the 1963 police raid on the property, mark a seminal shift in South Africa's liberation struggle history, and fundamentally changed the course of South African history.

Thank you Brenda for the suggestions and context you provided. South Africa’s story is complicated and intense; we suggest travelers to the Rainbow Nation spend time with a local guide to gain a better understanding of the social, political and cultural issues at play here. You can find Brenda here: Brenda’s guide profile page.
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