Last week I had some adventures in North West Province (one of South Africa’s lesser known provinces). It was a fascinating trip on many levels. I can’t possibly recount all my North West adventures in a single post, so I’m starting with the adventure that I think will garner the most excitement among my South African readers: a visit to the President Jacob Zuma Site of Arrest.
I’ll preface this narrative by saying I generally avoid blogging about South African politics, especially President Zuma. The last time I blogged about Zuma, during “The Spear” controversy at the Goodman Gallery, the post garnered quite a bit of strenuous debate. I’m really not looking to get into any political debates this time. But I just happened to find myself at the brand-new Zuma Site of Arrest and the experience was too good not to blog about.
For those of you who don’t know Jacob Zuma: He is the third president of South Africa, currently serving the ninth year of his ten-year, two-term presidency. I’m not going out on a limb when I say Zuma is…controversial.
In many ways Jacob Zuma is the Donald Trump of South Africa. I’m sure many people will take exception to this analogy for various reasons — in fact I take issue with it myself whenever someone says it to me, which is often — but that’s the easiest way to explain it.
Anyway, back to the Site of Arrest.
Jacob Zuma was arrested in 1963, along with about 50 other freedom fighters, when he was 21 years old. He and his comrades were on their way to Botswana to join the armed wing of the ANC, which was banned in South Africa, when they were intercepted by apartheid police. Zuma received a 12-year prison sentence and served ten years on Robben Island (alongside Nelson Mandela) before his release in 1973.
The Site of Arrest is part of the Liberation Heritage Route of Bokone Bophirima and reportedly cost R1.8 million (about $125k).
Disclaimer: In making fun of the Site of Arrest, I am in no way making fun of the South African Struggle. I have huge respect for all the freedom fighters, including Zuma, who were arrested that day while putting their lives on the line in the fight against apartheid.
A Visit to the Jacob Zuma Site of Arrest
The Zuma Site of Arrest is in a quirky town called Groot Marico, which I visited with my friends Ruth, Ryan, and Caroline as part of a ladies’ writing retreat. I’ll have more to say about Groot Marico in a future post.
We happened to visit Groot Marico in the first weekend of November, exactly one month after the Site of Arrest was officially unveiled. I was excited about this: I might be the first travel blogger to visit the Site of Arrest!
The first funny thing about the Site of Arrest is the name: Site of Arrest. Many of you might know there is a similar (or actually not so similar) memorial to Nelson Mandela in KwaZulu Natal Province, at the site where Mandela was arrested. This memorial is commonly referred to as the “Nelson Mandela Capture Site”.
The site in Groot Marico is not called the “Jacob Zuma Capture Site”, and this is surely no accident. The South Africans among you know why. For the non-South-Africans among you: The term “State Capture” has become very popular in South Africa over the last two years, specifically in reference to President Zuma and his very rich business associates, the Guptas. There is an entire report written about the capture of the South African state, called the State Capture Report.
Basically, State Capture is to Jacob Zuma is to South Africa what the Russia Investigation is to Donald Trump is to the United States. Only worse. You get my drift. Read more about State Capture on Wikipedia.
So obviously the Zuma Site of Arrest could not be called the Zuma Capture Site. Because everyone would just call it the Zuma (State) Capture Site and that would be embarrassing.
Anyway, back to Site of Arrest. The second funny thing about the Site of Arrest is the site itself.
A placard introducing the Site of Arrest, which reads: “Welcome to the Liberation Heritage Route of Bokone Bophirima, where liberation fighters crossed through into exile. Although many of them managed to cross into Botswana, Jacob Zuma and 45 others were intercepted by security police here in 1963. It is from here that Jacob Zuma’s struggle for liberation took off route ending in Robben Island.” Hmm, that read nicely until the last sentence.
Unfortunately I didn’t take a selfie at the Site of Arrest. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking.
Stay tuned for more adventures from North West Province.