Woza eNanda heritage site hails South African heroes
Experiencing the political change of South Africa rates as the second preference of most foreign visitors after a visit to a game park. Until recently, there was a lack of tourism facilities in KwaZulu-Natal with a strong liberation theme.
By Wanda Hennig
The heart of Inanda, the sprawling township that is part of the greater Durban municipality, known as eThekweni (Zulu for “where the earth and the ocean meet”), is called Freedom Valley for good reason. It is a fountainhead of South Africa’s rich liberation history; a source of legendary — and contemporary — people, places and events that have shaped and continue to shape the “new” South Africa.
“Inanda is the cradle of democracy in South Africa,” says Phillip Sithole of Durban Tourism.
“Inanda is where John Dube, founding father of the ANC, was born; it is where Nelson Mandela cast the first vote in our first democratic elections; it is the spiritual home of the Shembe (religion); it is the location of the Gandhi settlement.”
Also there is the Inanda Seminary, one of the best known and oldest schools for girls in South Africa (dating from 1869); and several other landmark projects.
Life-size Bronze Sculptures
On a recent Sunday, a group of journalists were invited to board a bus at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium to join city and KwaZulu-Natal politicos, song and dance troupes, local celebs, Inanda students, and the people of Inanda, for the formal launch of Woza eNanda (come to Inanda) — the Inanda Heritage Route — and the celebratory unveiling of life-size bronze sculptures of President Nelson Mandela and Dr. John Langalibalele Dube.
We were driven inland from the Durban beachfront with it’s modern upscale hotels and tourist facilities to Inanda’s historic Ohlange Institute. The journey of about 30 minutes when traffic is clear takes one through the city’s industrial outskirts and then on past informal settlements comprising tin shanties and garbage-bag dwellings where the tiny homes are creatively pieced together to provide scant shelter; then there’s the mishmash of small township houses that sprout from the hills and cling to grassy roadside verges.
The bus let us off up a narrow winding road.
Waiting inside the Ohlange Institute gates were the welcoming musicians, the dancers, the cooks preparing the shisa nyama meal (fire-grilled lamb chops and chicken) — and a huge white tent with mics and a stage in place, and tables set for lunch.
Durban’s deputy mayor, Logie Naidoo, did the opening honors. “This very historical part of the city of Durban, here in this Freedom Valley, we have had some of the greatest icons of South Africa,” he began.
“It was here that a young barrister, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, started his philosophy of satyagraha — nonviolence — and spent 21 years of his life in this city before he went back to the Indian subcontinent.
“His neighbor was Dr. John Langalibalele Dube, founding father of the ANC, whom today we celebrate and whose memories we cherish, and we honor him for being the leader that he was and doing the work he did for the establishment of what became the foremost liberation movement on the African continent.
“But in this valley also is the Ohlange (Institute) School and Nelson Mandela decided in 1994 to cast his vote at this precinct, at this school, when all South Africa for the first time went to the ballot box. After his vote he went to the graveside of John Dube and said, ‘Mr. President, South Africa is now free’.
“In this valley is also the Shembe Village, one of the biggest African religious groups found here in KwaZulu-Natal. We have also the Inanda Seminary, a school that produced some of the leading ladies in our country and who are found in every facet of South African life.”
Please see the video to hear more of Naidoo’s speech; to see and hear some of the entertainment; to meet John Dube’s daughter, Lulu Dube, an honorary guest and spokesperson for the family and the event; to listen to internationally acclaimed Durban sculptor Andries Botha discuss his challenges when creating the Nelson Mandela bronze; to hear Durban’s city manager Mike Sutcliffe recall the day Nelson Mandela cast his first vote at the spot where the bronze Mandela memorial now stands; to see KZN’s premier, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, and KZN’s MEC for economic development and tourism, Mike Mabuyakhulu; and others.
Woza eNanda (Come to Inanda)
The project, a collaboration between the city and municipality of Durban and the province, was born from the realization that Inanda has more history per square centimeter than anywhere in South Africa, and the desire to make this accessible to tourists.
The Inanda Heritage Route takes visitors to a number of tourist attractions, the main ones being the Phoenix/Gandhi Settlement, the Ohlange Institute (where we were; site of John Dube’s memorial; and how home to the bronze sculptures of Dube and Mandela); Shembe Ebuhleni; and Inanda Seminary School.
Dr. John L. Dube, born in 1871, is regarded as one of the most prominent writers of his time. He was also founder of the Zulu/English newspaper Ilanga lase Natal (Sun of Natal). In 1887 he accompanied the missionary W.C. Wilcox to America. There he studied at Oberlin College while supporting himself in a variety of jobs and lecturing on the need for industrial education in Natal. He went back to Natal but soon resumed to the US for further training and to collect money for his school. See an in-depth account of John Dube here.
May Your Soul Rest In Peace
Nelson Mandela cast his vote at Ohlange in honor of the pioneering work done by Dube. After casting his vote, he stood before Dube’s grave and said: “I am here before you Mr. President to report to you that South Africa is free and now may your soul rest in peace.”
Gandhi’s original home (at the Phoenix/Gandhi Settlement) was destroyed during the anti-apartheid turbulence of the 1980’s, but has now been rebuilt and rededicated as a monument to peace and justice.
Inanda Seminary, established in 1869, was and the first secondary school for African girls in southern Africa.
Many of South Africa’s black women leaders received their education here, including several of today’s MP’s and leading business figures, including Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge and Baleka Mbete. (Some original buildings are in the colonial style of the American South.)
At Ebuhleni, you get to experience the religious world of the Shembe church, founded by the prophet Isaai Shembe. It is the largest church in KwaZulu-Natal with more than two million members. See a story on the modern-day Shembe leadership here.
The leaders one pays tribute on when one books for an Inanda Heritage Route trail were all ignored by apartheid historians. To visit the sites is to experience the history and heroes of South Africa in the context of right here, right now.
© Wanda Hennig, 2010