On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of former President Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, the KZN Provincial Government has declared the development of the Mandela Capture Site outside Howick complete as it officially unveiled a multi-million rand Multi-purpose and Exhibition Centre at one of the province’s premier tourist sites.

“The release of Madiba on 11 February 1990 marked a turning point in the fight against apartheid. Our gathering at the Mandela Capture Site today affirms this site as a significant landmark in our history and one that ties KZN ever closer to the fabric of the Mandela legacy,” said national Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

The Minister of Tourism was joined by KZN MECs for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Sipho Hlomuka, Public Works and Human Settlements Peggy Nkonyeni, Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube, and Transport and Community Liaison Bheki Ntulu in officially opening the new state of the art structure at the Mandela Capture Site. The site now features this exhibition centre, the iconic Mandela monument and also hosts the annual Mandela Day Marathon.

“A great deal of hard work has gone into this site since the day it was officially unveiled on 5 August 2012 by former President Jacob Zuma on the 50th anniversary of Madiba’s capture. It now consists of a self-guided exhibition commemorating Madiba’s life and his transformation into a freedom fighter, prisoner and, ultimately, our first democratically elected President,” said Minister Kubayi-Ngubane.

The site also includes an impressive work of art constructed by South African artist Marco Cianfanelli. It is made up of 50 steel columns strategically arranged next to each other to reveal Madiba’s profile at a certain angle against the backdrop of the rolling hills of the KZN Midlands. The artwork is now a familiar sight thanks to the annual Mandela Day Marathon which uses it as its finish line.

“As a South African, one cannot help being overcome by emotions in this place. It is here that apartheid police finally captured Madiba on 5 August 1962 after being on the run for several months. This arrest was one of several that eventually led to the infamous Rivonia Treason Trial and Mandela’s imprisonment for 27 years,” said Hlomuka whose department has spent close to R100-million in developing the new Mandela Multi-Purpose and Exhibition Centre.

In her address, Minister Kubayi-Ngubane announced the commencement of a R12-million upgrade of the visitors’ parking, which includes a gatehouse, driveway upgrade, turning circle visitor parking, pedestrian walkways, internal fencing and way-finding signage. KZN Cogta is also to commence with R1.5- million improvements to the Mandela Sculpture lighting, the Long Walk to Freedom lighting, ambient lighting around the Education Centre, and additional electrical infrastructure which will ensure that the site can be utilised by tourists even at night.

The KZN Provincial Government has developed the site as a fitting tribute to these momentous events in the country’s history. In developing the site, the government had a vision of a sombre place for collective memories but also a place that could attract local and international tourists and provide economic opportunities for the local communities.