You’ve booked the flight, arranged the accommodation, now you’ve to decide what to do in Cape Town. Where better to start than by discovering more about the life and times of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s iconic ex President who turns 93 on Monday 18th July 2011. What an incredible age for any one to reach, and how lucky we are that it should be Nelson Mandela, a living legend!
The history of Nelson Mandela is an amazing one. Beginning in a part of the Eastern Cape known as Transkei in 1918, he was given the tribal name of Rolihalah, meaning “troublemaker”, only being given his English name of Nelson whilst at school by one of his teachers.
Perhaps it is the combination of genes and name that have seen Nelson grow into the world leader he is recognised as being today, along with those long stretches incarcerated on Robben Island, situated some seven miles off the coast of Cape Town.
Today, Robben Island is open to the public as a national memorial and museum where Mandela spent 18 years in a tiny cell 5 metres square. The early years were particularly arduous with insufficient clothing and only a thin straw mat on the floor of the cell for a bed.
Conditions improved from the early 1970’s, when prisoners were allowed to study. Nelson Mandela took full advantage of this opportunity to counteract the separation from his family and the harsh working conditions of the prison. He worked long and tirelessly to form bridges between the gaolers and the prisoners, developing, even then, his abilities to lead a nation out of the wilderness.
Take the launch from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront in front of the Clocktower, which will whisk you across the waters of Table Bay in half an hour and enjoy a tour given by ex-political prisoners guaranteed to be heart-felt and emotional.
Back in Cape Town, why not take a guided walk through the streets to uncover more of the great man in a Footsteps To Freedom tour. Stroll through Cape Town’s historic streets to learn the city’s early story of Dutch and British settlers, slavery in the Cape through to the rise and fall of apartheid and how, 17 years after black South African’s were invited to participate in voting for the first time, Nelson Mandela became President.
Monday’s celebrations have been decreed by the United Nations, having created Mandela Day last year. It is being embraced with enthusiasm by all South African’s around the globe as an opportunity to commemorate the extraordinary work of Nelson Mandela over the past years since 1994.
The festivities get underway in Cape Town over this coming weekend with the auction of a very special piece of artwork made out of the handprints and autographs of 67 international celebrities woven together in the pattern and colours of the South African flag.
At precisely 8.05am on Monday 18th July, South African’s are invited to sing Happy Birthday and then commit to spending 67 minutes of their time to doing some good in the community. The 67 is in recognition of more than 67 years that Mandela has spent serving his community, country and the world at large.
From all of us here at Come To Cape Town, we add our voices in wishing Nelson Mandela a very Happy 93rd Birthday with peace and prosperity for the coming year.