Why don't you like Nelson Mandela

Johannesburg: In the footsteps of Nelson Mandela

When you hear the name Nelson Mandela you might think of the Transkei, the sleepy but beautiful region in southern South Africa where the legend was born. Or you think of the prison island Robben Island in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Town, where the liberation leader served a large part of his 27 years in prison. Or to Pretoria, where he was the first black president of South Africa to reside at the zenith of his lifelong struggle.

The fact that Nelson Mandela spent most of his life in Johannesburg is often not noticed, although the years in the gold rush town were by far the most important for his political career. Here are seven stops you should check out:

1. Mandela House

Nelson Mandela moved into the small four-room “Matchbox” house in one of the oldest parts of Soweto in 1946 - five years after his arrival in the gold rush town. "I was very proud of the house", Mandela wrote in his memoir "The Long Road to Freedom": "A man is not a man until he has his own house."

What the politician deliberately ignored: The 28-year-old law student owed the house exclusively to his then wife Evelyn Mase, who as a nurse was entitled to accommodation. The marriage with Evelyn went completely wrong: Evelyn moved out ten years later with their three children.

In the following year, 1957, Nelson Mandela met Nomzamo Winifred "Winnie" Madikizela, who moved into house no. 8115 after their marriage in 1958. At that time, Mandela's life was already overshadowed by his political work: the President of the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC) had to hide from the police more and more often before he was finally arrested in 1962.

After his release more than 27 years later, he spent another two weeks in the Matchbox house for sentimental reasons. You can visit the highly frequented place in the tourist center of Soweto, Vilikazi Street, either with your own rental car or with an organized tour.

The Mandela House | Address: 8115 Vilakazi St, Orlando West, Soweto, 1804

2. Mandela's law firm in Chancellor House

In Johannesburg, Mandela initially hired himself as a security guard in a gold mine, but shortly thereafter continued his law studies at the Witwatersrand University and in 1944 opened the first black law firm in South Africa with his fellow student Oliver Tambo.

They rent an office on the second floor of the Chancellor House - directly opposite the monumental district court building. Today all kinds of artifacts from the time are on display in the shop windows of the Chancellor House, while the larger than life statue of a boxing Mandela towers into the sky in front of the building.

The house and a café on the ground floor were frequented by white and black customers at the time, which was highly unusual and prompted the city council to make a protocol note: “There are a lot of natives in the house. They scream and disturb. "

In fact, Mandela and Tambo could hardly save themselves from clients at first: Because they asked little or no fee, the black population harassed by the police ran down their doors. Soon, however, the two lawyers were more and more often before court themselves because of their political activities and hardly found time for their legal work.

When Tambo was exiled by the ANC in April 1958, the firm closed its doors forever. The two offices on the 2nd floor of Chancellor House are soon to be opened as a small museum.

Chancellor House | Address: 25 Fox Street, Ferreiras Dorp, Johannesburg

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3. Walter Sisulu Square in Soweto

Walter Sisulu Square on the southern edge of Soweto is a large square, surrounded by arcades and columns, on the edge of the poor township of Kliptown, whose liveliness does not want to encroach on the always deserted square.

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At most die-hard fans of the history of the liberation of South Africa get lost here to study the text of the Freedom Charter in a tower built on the edge of the square, which for some inexplicable reason resembles the Great Zimbabwe ruins in the neighboring country.

It was passed here in June 1955 by numerous organizations allied with the ANC - the essence of its ten articles later became part of the new South African constitution. Besides the demand for the nationalization of banks, mines and key industries: it was due to the influence of the Communist Party, allied with the ANC.

Mandela was "banned" during the congress, which was attended by around 3,000 people: He was not allowed to attend larger meetings. Disguised as a milkman, he still took part in the historic meeting, which, however, was broken up by the police on the second day. It is advisable to only visit the site as part of a tour or with someone familiar with the area.

Walter Sisulu Square | Address: Cnr Klipspruit Valley Road & Union Road Kliptown, Pimville Zone 9, Soweto, 1809

4. The “Fort” - today the Constitutional Court

Once a prison, now the seat of the country's highest court: Completed in 2004, the Constitutional Court is one of the most impressive contemporary buildings in South Africa. It was built on the site of a former prison on the edge of the immigrant district of Hillbrow - in some cases the unconventional and transparent structure even stands on the walls of the old prison.

A powerful symbol for the triumph of justice over the racist injustice state. Parts of the old prison were renovated and are now used as exhibition and event rooms. Occasionally, open-air festivals are even held on the site, which extends far beyond the "Verfassungshügel" (Constitution Hill).

Nelson Mandela was briefly imprisoned twice in the old "fort". 1956 after a high treason charge, which eventually ended in an acquittal. And again seven years later after his arrest on the way from Durban to Johannesburg, which was finally followed by the legendary Rivonia trial and a 27-year prison sentence, mainly on Robben Island.

At that time, Mandela was imprisoned in the hospital wing that is still preserved today - for fear that he could be released from the prison. A small museum has been installed in his cell. Constitution Hill is generally accessible and can be approached alone without hesitation. A visit is definitely worth it, if only for the views of Johannesburg.

Constitutional Court | Constitution Hill, 1 Hospital St, Johannesburg

5. The Liliesleaf Farm

Once far outside Johannesburg, Liliesleaf Farm is not only an exceptionally laid-back place for a half-day excursion: it also has a fascinating history. The property was acquired by South Africa's Communist Party (SACP) in the early 1960s: this is where the leadership of the now banned ANC prepared the armed struggle that Nelson Mandela had called for after the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960.

You can still see the old farm building in Liliesleaf, which was inhabited by white SACP members to camouflage, while black ANC leaders like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu slept in the service buildings. Despite all precautionary measures, the police got wind of the hiding place and surprised the farm residents in July 1963 with a raid. It is still unclear who betrayed the shelter.

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Sisulu was arrested with 18 other senior ANC and SACP members and brought on trial for sabotage along with Mandela, who had been arrested a year earlier. During his stay on the farm, Mandela had buried a Makarov pistol that he had received on a visit to Ethiopia.

Despite a considerable search effort, the pistol was never found after Mandela's release. Liliesleaf is now a conference and exhibition venue: you shouldn't miss a visit to the informative memorial in a relaxing environment (with a restaurant).

Liliesleaf | Address: 7 George Ave, Rivonia, Sandton

6. The Apartheid Museum

Don't be surprised if you can't find a parking space for your rental car when visiting the apartheid museum between Johannesburg and Soweto. This is less due to the South Africans obsession with history than to the fact that the parking lot also serves the amusement park “Gold Reef City”.

The cheering screams from the roller coaster may seem a bit strange to you when you visit the creepy museum: But once you have arrived inside the impressive building, your senses will be so confused that you will not notice anything else.

The Apartheid Museum is so full of written, visual and acoustic documents that you should allow at least three hours to visit - afterwards you will need another hours to recover from the devastating impression.

Nelson Mandela plays a central role in the Apartheid Museum: he did not at least shape any stage in contemporary South African history.

Apartheid Museum | Address: Northern Park Way and Gold Reef Rd, Johannesburg

7. The Nelson Mandela Foundation

Nelson Mandela spent the last years of his life, apart from in his house in Johannesburg's luxury district Houghton, mainly in his nearby office at the Nelson Mandela Foundation at 107 Central Street. You can visit the headquarters of the most important of the four foundations established by Mandela and see the office of the most famous South African as part of a permanent exhibition.

However, you have to make an appointment with the administration of the foundation - on working days between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. In the entrance hall of the impressive building there is also a changing exhibition, for example by artists who painted Mandela as her fantasy figure: as a niñja, as a smoking dandy or as a traditional warrior with a lion's mane.

The Mandela Foundation looks after the lasting legacy of the icon, as it is expressed in the annual “Mandela Day” on July 18, in meetings in the auditorium of the house or in numerous other initiatives of the foundation.

Around the corner from Central Street, a mansion where Mandela lived for a few years after his release is currently being converted into a boutique hotel.

Nelson Mandela Foundation | Address: 107 Central St, Houghton Estate, Johannesburg