Cape Town - Transport and Public Works MEC Robin Carlisle hopes the house where Nelson Mandela stayed while at the Drakenstein Correctional Centre will become “the second Robben Island of the Western Cape” attracting tourists now that access to the house will be easier.
Carlisle was speaking at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the refurbished “Madiba Freedom Walk” road (Schuurmansfontein Road).
The road is the historic site where former President Nelson Mandela took his first steps to freedom from the then-Victor Verster Prison where he was held from December 1988 until his release on February 11, 1990.
Upgrading the 2km road cost the provincial department R8-million.
The upgrade started in April and took eight weeks to complete.
Carlisle said he realised while visiting the prison that it had tourism potential and decided that something needed to be done about the road to make it easier for people to access it.
He said the road was built in-house as they did not have time to put it to tender and that the municipality had been supportive.
The prison was a powerful image for tourism: “I want to see this become the second Robben Island of the Western Cape.”
Carlisle was joined by Premier Helen Zille and other dignitaries on a tour of Mandela’s former house.
Zille said they wanted people to come and see where Madiba stayed before he became president.
“This was an important milestone in Madiba’s long walk to the presidency and to our freedom.”
Zille admitted that it was her first visit to the house and she had enjoyed anecdotes about how Madiba thought the microwave was a television and to see the table, chairs and pink lounge suite where discussions about the constitution took place.
“This was the table where he persuaded his colleagues that he had not sold them out.”
She said the house was a treasure.
“When Madiba got sick (earlier this year) it really became a matter of urgency to make sure that people could (get) access (to) the prison.”
She said the prison was just one of many sites in the country that marked important milestones in Mandela’s life.
“Like Chancellor House in central Joburg where Mr Mandela and Oliver Tambo established their law firm, the Madiba house on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, Robben Island where he spent most of his years in incarceration, and the Cape Town City Hall and Grand Parade where Mr Mandela delivered his first major public speech as a free man to the thousands gathered; this is part of South Africa’s heritage that we must preserve. It is our way to honour his legacy of reconciliation and celebrate his vision of South Africa as one nation with one future under the constitution.” - Cape Argus