It’s Wednesday night and to say we’ve had a full day would be quite an understatement. Today, #TeamKEM & I had the opportunity to do some sightseeing and educational touring, thanks to the Gauteng Tourism Authority. They were more than gracious to us throughout the whole trip and we can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. If you ever have plans to visit the Johannesburg/Soweto area, and you’re looking for in-depth educational tours, you can check out what they offer at www.gauteng.net.
APARTHEID MUSEUM We started our day at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. It was my favorite part of the tour, and it was a perfect way to begin, because it gave us the historical foundation that I think is necessary in order to fully appreciate everything that we’d see and encounter throughout our entire trip. Outside the museum is a stone wall that reads: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela, June 1999. It’s a quote that I will always remember. Before we entered the museum, our tour guide, Greg, randomly handed us our tickets, which were marked either “White” or “Non-White.” The ticket that you had determined which segregated entrance to the museum you were allowed to enter. I happened to get a “White” ticket.
The museum is a self-guided tour with extensive photo collections, videos and text panels that take you on a journey through the Apartheid era, and the laws which the South African government enacted to enforce segregation and dominance. It was both stunning and impactful to see so many horrific recollections and events that took place. I saw some coverage of it on TV in the ‘70s and ‘80s when it was happening, but to see everything chronicled in one place was overwhelmingly emotional. When you realize that these horrific events took place so recently, and you’re able to witness how integrated and welcoming South Africa is now, you’re able to gain a deep sense of appreciation and respect for the power of the spirit of the people.
SOWETO (acronym for SOuth WEstern TOwnship) After our visit to the Apartheid Museum, we headed to Soweto, which was the center of the Apartheid resistance in the late ‘70s. We passed by the 2010 World Cup Soccer stadium, which was built in the shape of an African gourd; gold mines; shanty towns; and the Orlando Towers, which used to cool the Soweto power plant. Tourists can bungee jump from them. Needless to say, we did not bungee jump. Our first stop was Vilakazi Street, where both Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former President Nelson Mandela used to live. It’s the only street in the world that has been the home to two Nobel Peace Prize recipients. The street sees a lot of tourism, and there are craft vendors lining the street and we picked up a few souvenirs from them. The Mandela home is now a museum with a collection of photos, plaques, awards, books, etc., which we had the opportunity to tour. When they were married, Nelson and Winnie Mandela used to live in the four room home with their children prior to his prison sentence. It was a powerful feeling to be in his former residence.
We also stopped by the Hector Pieterson memorial. Hector was a 12-year old who was the first student to be killed by police during the June 16, 1976 during a peaceful protest march by high school students. The students were confronted by police and were ordered to disperse. The confrontation became violent, the students threw rocks and the police fired shots. The memorial includes a photo of a student carrying Hector away after he had been shot with his sister running alongside of them. June 16 is still commemorated today as National Youth Day, which recognizes the students’ role in the fight against Apartheid.
SAFARI After our visit to Soweto, we headed out to a Safari at the Plumari Africa Game Reserve which is about an hour from Johannesburg. We headed out a bit later than planned, but were still able to see several kudu gazelles, antelopes, female lions, zebras, a warthog, water buffalos, wildebeests, a hyena, and a hippopotamus. A couple of people saw an elephant and a giraffe in the distance, but toward the end of our safari, the rains came so we had to end early, and we weren’t able to complete the full tour. It was amazing though, and we’ll be back to do it again!
Until next time…blessings! KEM