During the summer of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, I was a 14 year old in South Africa on a mission trip. Learning more about Nelson Mandela from the news after his death, has given me a renewed sense of gratitude about my trip. During my nearly month long trip, I was completely unaware of the correlation to some of the places and cities I visited to the then President Nelson Mandela.
The first and last city I visited was Johannesburg, a place where I wish I was at now to help celebrate Mandela's death. Johannesburg is the city to where Mandela ran out of protest during his early twenties and it is also the city where he increased in his political activism. In Johannesburg I stayed about a week at the University of Witwatersrand. It was at this university that Nelson Mandela studied law. In Johannanburg I also played soccer with other South Africans at Ellis Park Stadium. I was unaware that a year before my trip to South Africa that the Rugby World Cup was held at that very same stadium and Nelson Mandela was able to promote national unity and racial reconciliation.
Soweto was the most memorable city that I visited and it was also the place where I had first learned about Apartheid and experienced true poverty. I also was able to see the home that belonged to Nelson Mandela and his family for many decades. The home is now a museum that Mandela donated to the Soweto Heritage Trust, but it was not a museum at the time of my visit.
I also visited Durban for about a week and experienced my first and only beach trip, with beautiful blue water. This city is where Mandela was determaned to promote peace by speaking to African National Congress supporters. Over 10,000 people attended his rally and he requested the supporters to throw away their weapons and stand against their oppressors peacefully.
I visited Cape Town as well and this was the city where Nelson Mandela gave his famous speach after his release 1990 from jail. In his speech he called Cape Town his home for three decades and thanked all those in Cape Town who advocated for his release. Mandela had spent 27 years in jail right off the coast of Cape Town.
Pretoria was one of the final cities that I visited. It was in Pretoria that Nelson Mandela was tried and sentenced to five years of prison for incitement and legally fleeing the country in 1962. This was the beginning of his long 27 year internment in jail.
I also visited the city of Victoria but I could not find any history online between Nelson Mandela and Victoria. Again I am very thankful for the rare opportunity to have experienced South Africa. My only regret is that I was completely unaware of most of the history concerning Nelson Mandela that I just mentioned above while I was there. I hope that I will have another chance to visit South Africa again and that I can go along with my husband and children.