As we roll down the R617 towards my cousins’ place in Howick, the mists close around us, creating a white and green landscape so different from the brown landscape and blue sky we had been used to in the preceding months. Quite a change and while cold for us, it was refreshing. We arrive at my cousin Jeff and his wife Fen’s place late in the afternoon having started in South Africa, crossed Lesotho and re-entered South Africa in a day!
Jeff is the son of my uncle Basil who passed away recently, so our reunion after five years was tinged with a little sadness. Over the next couple of days, we relaxed with family, their kids Sarah and Sam, my sister Tansy arrived from the UK so with my aunt Maggie and cousin Tina we had quite a family gathering to celebrate Sarah’s birthday.
Nelson Mandela had been on the run from the South African apartheid government for 17 months, before he was captured on August 5, 1962, on the small country road (R103) just outside Howick in KwaZulu-Natal where Anthony’s cousins live. He was at the time posing as a chauffeur named David Motsamayi with a fellow ANC comrade Cecil Williams in the passenger seat.
Mandela’s capture marked the start of his 27-year imprisonment after the famed Rivonia Treason Trial and the journey that he would later call ‘the long walk to freedom’.
The sculpture below was designed by artist Marco Ciafanelli, assisted by architect Jeremy Rose and unveiled to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this event. From a distance and from the road, the sculpture appears like a set of 50 metal poles but as you approach from the ‘long’ path from the apartheid museum, Mandela’s face slowly emerges.
Although the history records list Mandela as one of the world’s most famous political prisoner and the first president of democratic South Africa, he is so much more than that to me: a true leader and a man I have enormous admiration for, especially in the way he and FW de Clerk worked on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. How lucky was the world that he was captured and not killed…
Jeff and Fen had taken time off work and arranged for all of us to travel to a cottage on the mouth of the Msikaba river, an area which they have stayed over the years with their family. This is a remote location with the nearest town over an hour away. Bring everything with you, no nipping out to the shops for something one forgets! The cottage is fitted with gas lights, if you want electricity, take your car battery out for the alternate lights. We get to experience for the first time a paraffin powered shower, when running sounds like a plane taking off, but it does provide a steady stream of hot water, we really enjoy this quasi camping with the comfort of a cottage not a tent. Our type of holiday.
We are located up the hill overlooking the estuary where the river meets the sea and force of nature can been seen as the waves pound the shore. The aptly named ‘Wild Coast’ has claimed many a ship over the years. I recall as a teenager watching a costal cargo ship hit by a single wave front on entering Durban harbour with its bow section bent down by 5%!
We say goodbye to our family and head off up the coast for the last few days of this trip. Next week we will be home.