I’ve been invited to be a Gauteng Tourism Authority ambassador. I don’t think I’ve ever been an ambassador for anything before so this is pretty cool. It basically means that I get to do some fun things around Gauteng Province (the province where Joburg is) and tell you about them. So here goes. The first task of my ambassadorship was to visit Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers and take a cycle tour around Soweto, which is great because I’d been meaning to do this forever anyway. I feel like I don’t go to Soweto enough and this past weekend was the perfect time to go, as Nelson Mandela lived in Soweto and I was keen to see how people were celebrating his life there. Kids at Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers.
“…no one can blame brave just men for seeking justice by the use of violent methods; nor could they be blamed if they tried to create an organised force in order to ultimately establish peace and racial harmony.” –Chief Albert Luthuli, 12 June 1964 (printed on a placard at the Liliesleaf Visitors’ Centre) ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ Last Thursday (11 July) was the 50th anniversary of the raid on Liliesleaf Farm, which eventually led to the historic Rivonia Trial. That would have been the perfect day for me to write a post about the amazing museum at Liliesleaf, which I’ve been meaning to do anyway. But I missed it. However, today (18 July) is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday. Mandela (whose nickname is Madiba, for the non-South Africans among you) was the central figure in the Rivonia Trial, which led to Mandela’s 27-year imprisonment. So now I have a second chance to write a meaningful post on a meaningful day. I won’t miss it this time.
If you are in South Africa and don’t reside under a rock, then you’ve likely heard about the controversy raging over an artist’s portrait of South African President Jacob Zuma, called “The Spear”. If you don’t live in South Africa, or do reside under a rock, you can read about the controversy here. The ANC (South Africa’s ruling party) has expressed outrage over the portrait, by prominent artist Brett Murray, which portrays President Zuma with exposed…ahem…private parts. In an ANC press release distributed on Thursday, spokespeople called the portrait “vulgar and distasteful” and claimed that it violates the president’s constitutional rights. The ANC has demanded that the Goodman Gallery — the well-known Johannesburg art gallery where the portrait is displayed as part of a Murray exhibition called “Hail to the Thief II” — remove the picture, and has taken the Goodman Gallery to court over the matter. The gallery has vowed to keep the portrait up. (Obviously.)
I recently visited Alexandra Township for the first time since moving to Joburg, to attend a kids’ baseball tournament. At the end of my post about the tournament, I said I was looking forward to spending more time in Alex in the near future. Turns out my next visit was nearer than I thought — two days later I received an invitation to attend a tour of Alex, sponsored by Joburg Tourism and the Alex Tourism Route-Open Africa Cooperative (ATROAC). Alex needs more love. It’s just as interesting historically as Soweto, where 99% of tourists go when they want to visit a Joburg township. Alex has its own Gautrain station (Marlboro) and is across the road from Sandton, where most of Joburg’s visitors and business travelers stay. But Alex hasn’t been discovered by the big tour companies yet. Go now, before that changes. Alex in the foreground. Sandton in the background. [Joe deserves special credit for editing this photo. It didn’t look half this good when I shot it.] Our day in Alex began at the AlexSan Kapano Community Centre, recently renamed the Alexandra Resources Centre. We checked out the brightly colored library and business centre, then boarded a bus for a three-hour tour, led by […]
I don’t write often about South African government and politics. Politics here are complicated and contentious — even more so than other countries I think, due to South Africa’s incredibly tumultuous history over the last half-century. As a foreigner who only moved here a year ago, I generally don’t presume to understand South Africa’s history and current affairs well enough to provide my own commentary. But last night I attended a political event that I’d like to comment on: a candlelight vigil protesting the South African Parliament’s proposed Protection of State Information Bill, also called the Secrecy Bill. Protesters show their opposition to the Secrecy Bill at last night’s candlelight vigil, which was held on Constitution Hill in Joburg. Similar events were also held in Durban and Cape Town.
Yesterday, thanks to my new friends at travelwrite.co.za, I attended a “Rediscover Joburg” tour hosted by the mayor of Johannesburg. The purpose of the tour was to showcase various development projects in the city to members of the media and other invited guests. It was also a farewell tour for the mayor, Amos Masondo, who steps down this Tuesday after 10 years in office. I showed up at the Joburg Theatre, the tour’s starting point, with no idea what to expect. When I saw the buses, I knew I was in for an exciting day. The bus I rode during the Rediscover Joburg tour.
Today is Heritage Day, a public holiday celebrating the cultural heritage of South Africa. Similar to Labor Day and Memorial Day, Heritage Day seems to serve mostly as an excuse for a long weekend. This year the holiday coincided with the end of the ANC General Council meeting so there was a big event at Moses Mabhida Stadium – the brand-new world cup venue in Durban. The specific theme of the event, in addition to South Africa’s heritage, was the success of the 2010 World Cup. The guest of honor was President Jacob Zuma. Joe photographed the event and I tagged along, as usual.
Joe and I have spent the last couple of days moving between Durban and an area to the north of town called the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Here are some highlights. Monday After Sunday’s adventures, I’m pleased to say that Joe collected his press credentials in time to cover the opening events of the ANC General Council Meeting. He also got the LandRover repaired and the engine noise is back to a quiet purr. Thank god.