The history of South Africa is a mottled one. Like every country in the world, there are sad and tragic elements to it. However, the Rainbow Nation is differentiated by its being able to harness the pain and create a positive heritage from it. This educates its people and showcases the resilience of South Africa to the world.
To visit the struggle sites in South Africa is to gain a unique insight into this country’s identity. Local travellers and international tourists alike are encouraged to experience the deeply moving sites, and see their integral connection to modern South African people and cultures.
Here are five of the best-known struggle sites that are equipped to welcome visitors
The jail on this island was reserved for many political prisoners, not least of all former-President Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site just off the coast of Cape Town that makes for a fascinating and poignant experience. Formal tours will take visitors to the very cell in which Nelson Mandela spent so many years. The story of Apartheid is well unravelled here.
Situated at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg, this museum tells the story of the Apartheid regime, its establishment, how it affected South African people of all denominations, colours and languages, and its ultimate fall. A number of fabulous exhibitions are effective in setting the scene, and 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.
Soweto is home to this museum, which is dedicated to those that died in the Soweto Uprising on 16 June 1976. Hector Pieterson was one of the youths that died in the protest against having Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools. He was shot and killed by police when he was only 13 years old. This museum, established in 2002, was one of the first museums in Soweto.
Situated in the Port Elizabeth township of New Brighton, this modern museum is dedicated to the struggles experienced during Apartheid. Massive photographic and video displays are complemented by realistic exhibitions of modern-day life in the township, as well as haunting pieces on those that died for the cause.
Found just outside Vereeniging, this site is dedicated to the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960. In this, 69 unarmed protesters were killed by police when they staged a peaceful march in protest of the law that dictated that they carry pass books with them wherever they go. This raised international fury and directed huge amounts of attention to South Africa and the negative effects of Apartheid.
These museums and memorials are not intended to keep bringing up painful memories of the South Africa of yesteryear. Rather, they are dedicated to the men and women that fought the battle against discrimination and racism, and who worked hard to establish the South Africa of today – one that embraces its cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. They honour the wonderful diversity of this land and its very special people.