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Political Sightseeing Tours

Cape Town

District Six

District Six was named the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town in 1867. Originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants, District Six was a vibrant centre with close links to the city and the port. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, the history of removals and marginalisation had begun.

The first to be ‘resettled’ were black South Africans, forcibly displaced from the District in 1901. As the more prosperous moved away to the suburbs, the area became the neglected ward of Cape Town.

In 1966, it was declared a white area under the Group areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over.  60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats, and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers.

The District Six Museum, established in December 1994, works with the memories of these experiences and with the history of forced removals more generally.

S.A. Museum

The oldest museum in sub-Saharan Africa, the South African Museum (SAM) has been adding to their collections for nearly 200 years and was established in 1825.

Collections here range from fossils to insects and fish found as recently as a week ago; there are Stone Age tools, over 120 000 years old, side by side with displays of traditional clothes from last century. The South African Museum offers a diverse range of exhibitions and visitors have not failed to leave the Museum without a better understanding of the earth and its biological and cultural diversity – both past and present. It lies in company gardens, at the opposite end to the house of parliament, with its entrance on Queen Victoria Street.

The South African Museum was founded by Lord Charles Somerset and is the second oldest scientific institute in the country – the Royal Observatory was established just five years earlier. It is both a research and educational institution and offers collections of natural history and anthropological objects that document all forms of life – living and extinct – from southern Africa.

House of Parliament

The city of Cape Town, despite not being the capital of South Africa, is home to South Africa’s Parliament – Cape Town is the legislative capital, whilst the seat of government is in Pretoria, the administrative capital – which is one of the biggest draw cards to the city under the mountain.

Lying in the uppermost corner of company gardens, with their entrance on Parliament Street, it’s not unusual for locals and visitors alike to encounter Members of Parliament in coffee shops or restaurants in the surrounding areas; and journalists use this locale to scout for news. It is from here that the President gives his State of the Nation Address, after the opening of Parliament, which involves several road closures and demarcated “no parking zones” around the Gardens – a challenge for locals getting in and out of the Cape Town city centre, but a welcome spectacle for visitors.

S.A. National Gallery

Lying in the Company Gardens, opposite the South African Museum on Government Avenue, the South African National Gallery houses some of the most beautiful collections of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art in South Africa.

The South African National Gallery’s permanent collection, which includes art from the colonial to the contemporary, is regularly rotated so that there is a full programme of temporary exhibitions of paintings, photography, sculpture, architecture, beadwork, textiles and works on paper. These are supplemented with visiting exhibitions. The South African National Gallery’s only reserve is the lack of traditional pre-colonial work, because of under funding and the high prices of Western art. At the same time, very little in the way of emerging art in South Africa during the 1980s was acquired while under apartheid, so the gallery has made an attempt to fill this gap in its collection.

Since 1990 it has worked to set up a collection that celebrates the expressive cultures of the African continent, and it now has a respected collection of beadwork and indigenous sculpture. The Bead Society of Southern Africa was launched at the gallery in 1999, motivated by a need for a society in the south of Africa – there is one in Ghana and others exist all over the world – particularly as beadwork is the main means of aesthetic expression of women in South Africa.

Company Gardens

The garden was formally established in 1652 by Dutch settlers who sought to establish a victualing station to service and re-provision spice-trading sailing ships on the long sea route to the east. It was superimposed on a landscape that was occupied occasionally by indigenous hunter gatherers and modified by pastoralists who used the area in the standard migratory agricultural pattern of the time. This halfway-house was the foundation stone of the Western colonisation of southern Africa.

Cape Town’s earliest records show that the Garden was originally divided into rectangular fields protected by high trimmed myrtle windbreaks, and watered via a system of open irrigation furrows fed by the area’s numerous mountain streams. The design was typical Dutch agricultural practice of the time, apart from the furrows, which had been adapted to suit the region’s topography and weather.

Pretoria

Union Buildings

The Union Buildings form the official seat of the South African government and also house the offices of the President of South Africa. The imposing buildings are located in Pretoria, atop Meintjieskop at the Northern end of Arcadia, close to historic Church Square and the Voortrekker Monument. The large gardens of the Buildings are nestled between Government Avenue, Vermeulen Street East, Church Street, the R104, and Blackwood Street. Fairview Avenue is a closed road where only officials can enter to the Union Buildings. Though not in the center of Pretoria the Union Buildings occupy the highest point of Pretoria, and constitute a South African National monument.

The Buildings are one of the centers of political life in South Africa; “The Buildings” and “Arcadia” have become metonyms for the South African Government. It has become an iconic landmark of Pretoria and South Africa in general, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and an emblem of democracy. The Buildings are the location of Presidential Inaugurations.

Freedom Park

Freedom Park is one of about 200 informal settlements in the Cape Metropolitan Area which house approximately half a million people in more than 100 000 dwellings. This accounts for 16.1% of Cape Town´s population or 60% of the households living without formal shelter

The site is situated in the township Mitchell’s Plain on the outskirts of the City of Cape Town. Mitchell’s Plain is a typical example of an area that was created in the 1970s to relocate thousands of families from the inner city to racially segregated areas under the Apartheid Group Areas Act. Today Mitchell´s Plain accommodates more than 300 000 people, but it remains  a desolate area with high levels of  unemployment, poverty and crime.

Freedom Park came into existence on 27th April 1998, when a group of people organised an occupation of the land and built themselves shacks on the property. The move was motivated by the need for housing as the conditions in which people had resided were overcrowded, expensive and unsatisfactory for healthy living.

The City of Cape Town took legal action against the community to have them removed from the property. But as the community organized themselves in a democratic structure and arranged legal support, an agreement between the City of Cape Town and the Freedom Park community was reached to resolve the matter out of court. During the ensuing mediation process, the City of Cape Town was required to install emergency services which consisted of pubic standpipes, communal toilets and weekly refuse removal.

In 2003 the City of Cape Town at last included the Freedom Park community in a broader housing development through which 1800 houses were to be built on 4 sites in the Mitchell´s Plain area. 493 of these houses were to be built at the Freedom Park site to accommodate the 280 families residing in the Freedom Park informal settlement, as well as 213 families from the City´s waiting list.

Kruger House Museum

The last house in which President Paul Kruger was to live, between 1883 and 1901, before he left South Africa to go into exile in Europe, the Kruger House Museum lies just a few blocks from Church square, where his bronze statue takes centre stage facing the Palace of Justice.

The beautiful Victorian style home was interestingly built using milk instead of water for mixing the cement as the cement of the time was deemed to be of a poor quality. Paul Kruger’s home was one of the first in the city to use electricity, and he had one of the first telephones installed in Pretoria in 1891. The unpretentious home has been refurbished to reflect the time when Kruger and his second wife, Gezina Kruger, lived here and, amongst a number of bits and pieces is a knife that Oom Paul (Uncle Paul), as he was fondly known, used to amputate his thumb after a shooting incident. The lions on the veranda were given to Kruger by Barney Barnato, the mining magnate, as a birthday present in 1896.

Paul Kruger was State President of the South African Republic and was renowned internationally for his struggle for freedom from the British during the Second Boer War (1899 – 1902). Both the Kruger National Park and the Kruger rand coin are named after him, and today pipe manufacturers continue to produce a style called “Oom Paul”, that is similar to the large-bowled, full-bent shape of the pipe with which he was so often portrayed in photographs. Interestingly, the hat he wore on his voyage to Europe is today displayed at the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands.

National Cultural History Museum

Now known as the African Window, the National Cultural History Museum lies on Visagie Street, in the Old Mint, vacated for newer premises in Midrand. It is without doubt one of the most dynamic museums in Pretoria. It consistently displays new and exciting exhibitions alongside its rather appealing permanent exhibitions, which include an exploration of space through the ages, called “reach for the stars”, and a rock art exhibition, known as the “rainbow collection”.

The National Cultural History Museum is regarded as a centre for living culture and it focuses on the diversity of the country’s cultures and history of its people. It includes objects, manuscripts, documents, records, photographs and publications on cultural history in all areas in South Africa. Some of the highlights include a Stone Age exhibit, an Iron Age exhibit and historic archaeology sites. There are collections of San rock engravings, Cape Dutch furniture, and of silver and archaeological material. The museum also has an art gallery that displays a rich array of paintings and sculptures from the various cultures of South Africa.

The African Window has a rather creative approach to its displays, and its main intention is to promote living culture through song, dance, drama and visual arts festivals, and to celebrate all South Africans’ heritage through permanent and temporary exhibitions. It has no fewer that five million objects stored in its facilities and the museum has huge collected works of archaeological material. Past exhibitions have included the archaeology and anthropology of the Sotho-Tswana and Venda peoples, Mapungubwe, and the Rain Queen of Modjadji.

Pretoria day tour

Be sure to bring your camera as this city, dubbed the Jacaranda City, blossoms with beautiful Jacaranda trees. See the many historical sights of Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, including the President’s Office, the Church Square, Kruger House, Melrose House and the Voortrekker Monument as well as the Union Buildings.

The administrative capital of South Africa, Pretoria is also known as the Jacaranda City, as it blossoms with beautiful jacarandas sweeping over the roads and providing shade from the burning African sun.

See the historical sights of this city including the Sir Hubert Baker designed Union Buildings; see the President’s office, Church Square, Paul Kruger and Melrose Houses and Voortrekker Monument. This tour is a great way for you to familiarize yourself with the picturesque city of Pretoria.

Johannesburg

Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum is the story of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. Beginning in 1948, the white elected National Party government initiated a process which turned over 20 million people into 2nd class citizens, damning them to a life of servitude, humiliation and abuse. Their liberation in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela, the prisoner who became president, is a climax in the saga of a Nations resistance, courage and fortitude.

Just 15 minutes from O.R International Airport or 20 minutes from Sandton (the business centre of South Africa), discover the true history of South Africa. Whoever you are, you cannot but come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of this country, its darkest days and its brightest triumphs.

The Apartheid Museum, the first of its kind, illustrates the rise and fall of apartheid: The racially prejudiced system that blighted much of its progress and the triumph of reason which crowned half a century of struggle. The Museum has been assembled and organized by a multi-disciplinary team of curators, film-makers, historians and designers. An architectural consortium comprising several leading architectural firms, conceptualized the design of the museum on a seven-hectare site. The museum is a superb example of design, space and landscape offering the international community a unique South African experience.

The exhibits are from film footages, photographs, text panels and Artefacts illustrating the events and human stories that are part of the epic saga, known as apartheid. A series of 22 individual exhibition areas takes the visitor through a dramatic emotional journey that tells a story of a state sanctioned system based solely on racial discrimination.

Constitution Hill

Nowhere can the story of South Africa’s turbulent past and its extraordinary transition to democracy be told as it is at Constitution Hill. This national heritage site has witnessed a century of South Africa’s history. From rebellious British soldiers who fought with the Boers at the turn of the century, to the youths caught up in the Soweto Uprising, to the dawn of democracy and the building of South Africa’s new Constitutional Court, Constitution Hill has witnessed it all. Visit Constitution Hill and learn about the injustices of South Africa’s past while observing the process by which freedom was won and is now protected. Exhibitions and guided tours have been designed as an interactive experience, offering visitors the opportunity to participate in the building of Constitution Hill.

The Constitutional Court of South Africa is Johannesburg’s newest historical landmark and a unique architectural symbol of South Africa’s democracy. On this site, once the Old Fort Prison Complex, commonly known as Number Four, political prisoners and common criminals awaited trial and sat out their jail sentences. Today, the elegant Constitutional Court presides over this once-reviled place and stands as a proud monument to South Africa’s hard-earned freedom.

The Court extends an invitation to the general public and international visitors to explore the history of South Africa’s political transition. Come and see the splendid and symbolic artwork, sit in the graceful public gallery, watch the 11 justices deliberate the finer details of the Constitution and wander around the largest human rights library in the southern hemisphere. Or simply soak in the atmosphere of one of the world’s most progressive constitutions.

Hector Pieterson Memorial

The Hector Pieterson* Memorial and museum opened in Soweto in 2002, not far from the spot where 12 year-old Hector was shot on the 16 June 1976 during the Soweto uprising that today is a symbol of resistance to the brutality of the apartheid government.

Soweto, a city developed as a township for black people during apartheid, lies south of Johannesburg. Its residents number some two million people with homes that range from shacks to extravagant mansions, and the Hector Pieterson Memorial site is included on any number of tours through the area. On 16 June on the day Hector was killed, school children had gathered to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in township schools. There are contradictory accounts of just who gave the first command to shoot but as children began singing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, and before they could be dispersed, the police opened fire. Some 20 children died in the ensuing pandemonium.

Hector Pieterson has become something of an iconic image of the fateful day, mostly due to a photograph published across the globe by Sam Nzima, photographer at the time for The World newspaper in Johannesburg, of the dying Hector carried by a fellow student, Hector’s sister alongside, her hands held out in panic. Today 16 June is national youth day to honour young people.

Since its erection, the memorial plaque for Hector Pieterson has been repeatedly vandalized; ironically it seems due to children who don’t understand the relevance or important historical implications of the memorial.

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