With International Mandela Day coming up we decided to visit the Ohlange Institute in Inanda. Nelson Mandela cast his first vote in a new Democratic South Africa at this high school. I always wondered why. With my visit, arranged through Durban’s Green Corridor I was hoping to find out.
John Langalibalele Dube was the founder of the Ohlange Institute in 1900. He is however best known as the first president of the ANC. Unknown to most of us, he was also a pastor, author, musician and founding editor of the Ilange newspaper.
“I have come to report Mr President, that South Africa is now free
After meeting our guide Sanele at the Green Hub we set off on the 20 minute drive to Inanda. Sanele is an ex-pupil of this high school, and lived in the area with his grandmother. His stories as a young boy growing up in this area entertained us immensely. As a young boy he and his friends explored the streams caught crabs and swam in the nearby Umgeni River.
On the grounds of the school overlooking the beautiful valley, we first visited John Dube’s graveside. He is buried along with his second wife, two sons and a daughter.
It was here where Nelson Mandela uttered his famous words : “I have come to report Mr President, that South Africa is now free”.
Perhaps this is the answer to my question as to why Mandela chose this site to cast his vote.
From there we visited Dube’s first house which is now a museum. On the verandah there a large statue of Dube sitting overlooking the school – no doubt something he did while he alive.
Throughout the little building are displays of John Dube’s accomplishments. He certainly had an interesting and eventful life. His piano and a well worn writing desk are also displayed. I could not help stroking the desk, imagining this man penning his thoughts and beliefs. It was fascinating.
The building is neat and well maintained with a sense of peacefulness. I would love more time to browse the walls covered in history. But time waits for no one and marches far too quickly.
Sanele then introduced us to Mandla Nxumalo. Mandla was present the day Mandela voted. He showered us with a lively and animated account of this memorable day. Soon I was imagining the excitement for everyone present. In my mind’s eye I could see the paparazzi on the grassy banks, the security guards standing erect and alert and the red carpet covering the path waiting for Mandela to arrive,
I loved Mandla’s words: “the next thing, size 11 shoes stepped out onto the red carpet right where you are standing now, to greet the paparazzi and walk toward the school hall to place his vote ”.
Following Mandela’s footsteps along the path we entered the large what was then an Assembly Hall. It now serves as another museum. The most interesting display is a life size statue of Mandela (who I might add stood tall in more ways than one – he was 6 foot).
Time went quickly and before I knew it, it was time to head home
At the crest we enjoyed sweeping views of Ntuzuma, Kwa-Mashu, Phoenix, Umhlanga, Durban, aswell as landmarks such as Moses Mabhida Stadium and the Gandhi Settlement. We also passed a number of tuck shops, unfortunately the take-away was closed so I missed out on enjoying an ‘ingwenya’ or vetkoek (delicious fat cake which I never normally give a miss).
Time went quickly and before I knew it, it was time to head home. We ended the tour by drinking homemade beer with Tembe (a dressmaker by profession) and her family. The tradition is to share the jug of beer which was rather daunting. When in Rome, do as the Romans do and soon I was drinking with the friendly family, laughing with each other. This was a lovely way to end such an informative and fun filled day.
Another wonderful day out and about
Click here to read Green Corridor (Part 2) : A visit to John Dub’e Ohlange Institute