Johannesburg, South Africa, from Nelson Mandela through Apartheid and our Global African Ancestry

It took three months to create this South African flag inside the courtroom of the Constitutional Court at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. It was made with beads and fabric by seven Zulu women. (Sept. 28, 2018)

Nelson Mandela and South Africa are seamlessly bound together. And, that is so apparent here in Johannesburg where the yoke of apartheid, institutionalised racial segregation, inhumanely penetrated the lives of South African blacks from 1948 until the early 1990s. Apartheid left its stench and decay but the people are working, even with economics seemingly stacked against them, to fashion a forward thinking and forward moving Johannesburg.

In just my brief time here, Johannesburg is truly a city of contradictions…yet the history of its people, our people, black and white must always be preserved. There can never be a time when one race dominates. To quote Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and a humanitarian who led this country from apartheid to democracy, “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” This quote is from his 1964 Rivonia trial where he was accused of sabotage and sentenced to life in prison.

Today was about seeing as much as possible of Johannesburg and that goal was fulfilled with a MoAfrika full day “Ultimate Johannesburg Tour.” I got to Johannesburg a couple of days early so I could see the city. My Intrepid tour doesn’t begin until Saturday evening when I meet my guide and group. My ultimate tour included Constitution Hill, the former prison where Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi were once imprisoned now turned museum and home to the highest court in the land the Constitutional Court of South Africa; a street and sky view of Johannesburg; the Apartheid Museum and Nelson Mandela exhibit; and Soweto, the city developed as a township for black people under the apartheid system. It took close to 25 hours to get to Johannesburg from Dallas and it was worth every second… here’s just a touch of Johannesburg.

The Constitutional Court of South Africa in what is known as Constitution Hill in Johannesburg was formerly the site of a fort which was later used as a prison. The words on the exterior of the building mean “Constitutional Court,” written in all 11 official South Africa languages. The court building itself was built using bricks from the demolished former prison. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The carved wood doors of Constitutional Court of South Africa The doors to the court have the 27 rights of the Bill of Rights carved into them. One of the stairwells from the old trial awaiting blocks with the Portuguese words A luta continua written in lights on it meaning the struggle continues. (Sept. 28, 2018)
A close-up of a portion of the carved entryway door of Constitutional Court at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. The door shows one of 27 Bill of Rights carved into it. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The courtroom of the Constitutional Court at Constitution Hall in Johannesburg. In 1995, the Constitutional Court justices began looking for a permanent location for the new Court and selected Constitution Hill, a former fort and prison where the prisoners were treated inhumanely. The first court session in the new building at this location was held in February 2004. The Constitutional Court consists of eleven judges who are appointed by the President of South Africa from a list drawn up by the Judicial Service Commission. The court building was built using bricks from the demolished former prison. Our Constitution Hill guide, Tzika, explained that the courtroom was designed to embody the openness and transparency called for by the Constitution and to endorse the rights of all citizens. (Sept. 28, 2018)
It took three months to create this South African flag inside the courtroom of the Constitutional Court at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. It was made with beads and fabric by seven Zulu women. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Outside the wooden doors of the Constitutional Court building at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg are the old prison stairwells built into these towers. The tower to the right contains the Flame of Democracy which was lit in 2012 to celebrate South Africa’s 15th anniversary of the signing of the constitution. (Sept. 28, 2018)
A close-up of the eternal Flame of Democracy on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The courtyard of the Number 4 prison block at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa, is where the apartheid era prison, with its inhumane treatment, became a detention center for political dissidents, striking mineworkers, and those who simply violated the pass laws which made it compulsory for all black South Africans over the age of 16 to carry the “passbook” at all times within white areas. Built by President Paul Kruger in 1893, the Old Fort – formerly the Johannesburg Jail – is just seven years older than the city itself. Originally established to house the criminals produced by the rising mining town, it became the city’s first military fort after the British attempted to overthrow the government. Number 4 The courtyard was supposed to have been used by the prisoners as an exercise facility, however, due to extreme overcrowding, many prisoners slept in the courtyard. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Another view of the Number Four prison block courtyard at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa. To the left front was where the prisoners could shower. Thirty minutes of cold water was provided once a month for some 2,000 prisoners to shower in. And, to the right are six in ground toilets. (Sept. 28, 2018)
These are the in ground toilets at the Number Four prison block where the black prisoners were required to use at the former prison at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa. These six were located by the outdoor dining room area where sanitation was beyond poor. Because of the unsanitary conditions and lack of provisions, many of the prisoners contracted a host a diseases that ultimately took their lives. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The outdoor dining room area of the Number Four prison block at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa. According to Oliver Tambo, former president of the African National Congress, “Prisons like Number Four were part of a system of maintaining racial discrimination during the apartheid era. Going to prison was part of everyday life for blacks people.” (Sept. 28, 2018)
The isolation cells of the Number Four prison block at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa, were called the deep dark hole and used as an extreme form of punishment. Prisoners spent 24 hours in the 4×12 cell on a diet of rice water and some could officially be held here for 30 days. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The Mandela Gandhi exhibit at the Number Four prison block at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa, honors the two men, former South Africa’s president Nelson Mandela and Indian pacifist activist Mahatma Gandhi who were both imprisoned. (Sept. 28, 2018)
A close-up of the Mahatma Gandhi statue at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa. Gandhi, an Indian activist and leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule, was imprisoned here in 1904. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Depicting a master-slave relationship and its brutal nature, this large yoked statue, at the entrance to the Constitutional Court on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa, of a figure draws a cart where two much smaller figures sit on top of another human figure. The title of the work, by Dumile Feni called “History,” supposedly draws on the brutal treatment of black labour to build a colonial empire that evolved into the brutal treatment of black bodies under apartheid. Or, the statue depicts people moving forward by carrying each other. Feni, a South African, who spent more than two decades in exile in New York and was about to return to South Africa in 1991 when he passed away. Initially a small clay artwork made by Feni in 1987, the Tallix Art Foundry in Brooklyn, New York, enlarged and cast the work in bronze in 2003. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The vibrant inner city streets of Johannesburg, South Africa. Many larger companies have left the inner city area and relocated to the suburbs because of crime and decay. However, the inner city is slowly being transformed. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The vibrant inner city streets of Johannesburg, South Africa. (Sept. 28, 2018)
A view of the west side of Johannesburg, South Africa, from the 50th floor of the Carlton Center’s “Rooftop of Africa.” Despite being built in the 1970s, the Carlton Centre is still considered to be Africa’s tallest skyscraper. Nowadays the Carlton Center, which includes a high rise hotel that’s closed down, is like the rest of the inner city area around it and no longer commands the sense of prestige it once did. But the 360-degree viewing level is the perfect place to get a perspective on the city’s incredible scale and many neighborhoods. (Sept. 28, 2018)
From the 50th floor of the Carlton Center’s “Rooftop of Africa” building are the former gold mines, in the distance to the north of the inner city, the reason why Johannesburg is called the “City of Gold.” The world’s richest gold fields were discovered in Johannesburg during the 1880s and within just a few years the city grew to be the largest settlement in South Africa and swelled with migrant workers from across Southern Africa and other parts of the world. The so-called ‘Randlords’ (mining company owners) controlled much of the mining wealth. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Me just outside of the Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) exhibit of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, by the Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed inside either the exhibit or the museum. In the exhibit, Mandela’s life is explored through six themes – character, comrade, leader, prisoner, negotiator and statesman. He was central to in South Africa’s epic struggle against the bondage of apartheid led to 27 years of imprisonment that began in 1962. He was released in early 1990 and in 1994 was voted as South Africa’s first democratic elected president. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Posters decrying South Africa’s apartheid at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. The museum opened in 2001 and is considered the pre-eminent museum in the world dealing with 20th century South Africa, at the heart of which is the apartheid story. 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 on racial discrimination and the struggle of the majority to overthrow this tyranny. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Me at the entrance to the Soweto township in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Sept. 28, 2018)
This is a small, but telling portion of Soweto, the Johannesburg township where some 4 million Africans live including, at one time, two Noble Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu. Soweto is basically a city developed as a township for black people under the apartheid system. It came about because of the increasing eviction of Africans, following a reported outbreak of bubonic plague. Soweto, which comes from South West Townships of Johannesburg which began with Pimville in 1934 and then Orlando in 1935. Soweto came to the world’s attention in 1976 with the Soweto Uprising, when mass protests erupted over the government’s policy to enforce education in Afrikaans rather than their native language. The Afrikaans language is considered to be about 90 percent of Dutch origin. Police opened fire in Soweto’s Orlando West area on 10,000 students marching from Naledi High School to Orlando Stadium. The rioting continued and 23 people died, 21 of whom were black, including the minor Hector Pieterson, as well as two white people, including Dr Melville Edelstein, a lifelong humanitarian. (Sept. 28, 2018)
A make-shift store selling vegetables and fruit in Soweto. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The community water pump in Soweto, South Africa. (Sept. 28, 2018)
A home in the Soweto township can house several families in several sections with all of them sharing one toilet, a bucket with no running water and no electricity. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The dirt roads of a Soweto township neighborhood. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Despite their poverty, the Soweto township people have managed to build a strong sense of community. This vehicle is considered a shared vehicle. Since it can take an ambulance up to three hours to get to a neighborhood, families pitch in to buy fuel for vehicle. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Our Soweto guide, Nyiko (in the red shirt) lives in the Soweto township and is holding a kerosene lamp that’s used for light. Since there’s no running water, families go to a piped area with water and carry that water back to their homes. According to Nyiko, some families use a car battery to provide electricity while many must pay charging stations to charge their electronics. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The interior of the home in the Soweto township. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Although some 4 million people live in Soweto, a small number of people are employed to handle trash. This area is for recycling which is how a number of the women in the community are able to make money but collecting the recycling can take all day. (Sept. 28, 2018)
These former coal power stations are now used as advertising tools and the area has been turned into an entertainment district in the Soweto township. The sloping bridge between the two stations is actually a place where people bungee jump. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The first home of Nelson Mandela in the Soweto area of Orlando on Vilakazi street. Just didn’t have time to see the interior of his home because of the rain storm. Next time. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Although Bishop Desmon Tutu no longer lives in the home on Vilakazi street in the Orlando area of Soweto, relatives still live there. The house is behind this large cement gray wall. The South African Anglican cleric and theologian was born in 1931 and known for his anti-apartheid and human rights activism. He won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in resolving and ending apartheid. Tutu was the Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then the Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, in both cases being the first indigenous black African to hold the position. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The street corners off of Vilakazi street in the Orlando area of Soweto, close to the former homes of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, are crowded with people selling everything from fruits to garments. Unfortunately there was no time to check out all the goods because the rain, along with hail, came rolling in. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Snapped this colorful mural off of Vilakazi Street in the Orlando area of Soweto. It’s a joy to see the colorful murals and the statues that pop up throughout Johannesburg. (Sept. 28, 2018)
The memorial site where Hector Pieterson (Aug. 19, 1963 – June 16, 1976), a South African schoolboy, was reputed to have been shot and killed during the Soweto uprising, when police opened fire on students protesting the enforcement of teaching in Afrikaans.
Taking photos inside the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum is a definite no, no…but the photo of his lifeless body being carried by another boy and Hector’s devastated sister running to escape harm and bring Hector home…is haunting. The museum, located in the Orlando West area of Soweto, is just two blocks away from where the young boy was shot and killed. Hector, who was only 12, lost his life under police fire on June 16, 1976 during a student march protest of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in African schools. (Sept. 28, 2018)
After a long day getting an overview of Johannesburg and Soweto, I got a chance to relax with a delicious dinner of a juicy steak, fries and a salad at my hotel, the Holiday Inn Johannesburg in Rosebank. The whole meal, with a glass of wine and two bottles of water, cost me a whopping 356 Rands…that translates to $25.14. (Sept. 28, 2018)
Even though the exchange rate is about 14 Rands to one U.S. dollar, the bills are just so beautiful. All of them have former South African President Nelson Mandela’s face on one side and some also have his face on the other side. (Sept. 28, 2018)

Welcome to the Motherland where, “We are one global species with an African heritage.”

I descended into the Sterkfontein cave today where archeologists found the 2.15 million year-old remnants of the Australopithecus Africanus called Mrs. Ples. And, I also spent time at the Maropeng exhibition that focuses on the development of humans and our ancestors over the past few million years…both of which constitute the “Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Sites,” just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.

I also met the guide, driver and the 15 tour mates for my Intrepid Travel tour through South Africa’s coast to Cape Town. And, we’re on the road first thing in the morning…that’s 5:00 in the morning to where we’ll be camping and spending the next two nights…the Kruger National Park. It boasts over 500 bird species, 100 species of reptile and 150 mammal species, including the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo) and the endangered African wild dog. So, today’s account will be brief because my bed and the wild are calling.

This is for my mother, Carmen. Mom, here’s a photo of me inside the Sterkfontein caves, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. This is toward the end of the one hour tour. Mom, there were 131 stair steps to enter the cave and 187 stair steps up to exit the cave. All I can say is how often in life will I ever get to enter a cave where more than 9,000 fossils were found dating back more than 2 million years. This was exhilarating. (Sept. 29, 2018)
Our guide at the Sterkfontein caves, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, let our group know we were standing where Mrs. Ples, the popular nickname for the most complete skull of an Australopithecus africanus was ever found. An Australopithecus africanus is the first of an early ape-form species to be classified as hominin which includes humans and their fossil ancestors. Discovered by Robert Broom and John T. Robinson on April 18, 1947, the Mrs. Ples skull is currently on display at the Ugandan National Museum. (Sept. 29, 2018)
The entrance down into the Sterkfontein caves part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site about a 45 minute drive outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. (Sept. 29, 2018)
The section of the Sterkfontein caves, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, where excavation is still taking place. The caves are located just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. (Sept. 29, 2018)
A stalactite, formed of calcium salts deposited by dripping water, inside the Sterkfontein caves, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, near Johannesburg. The cave was once filled with water and although water still exists, the vast majority has receded. (Sept. 29, 2018)
Inside the Sterkfontein caves, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, located just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. (Sept. 29, 2018)
Inside the Sterkfontein caves, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, located just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. (Sept. 29, 2018)
The Maropeng Vis­i­tor Cen­tre is an award-win­ning, world-class exhi­bi­tion and part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site located just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. It that focuses on the devel­op­ment of humans and our ances­tors over the past few mil­lion years. (Sept. 29, 2018)
This map, at the Maropeng Visitor Center, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site outside of Johannesburg, focuses on when modern humans or Homo sapiens left Africa and where they went. But the hominids, a primate family which includes humans and their fossil ancestors are believed to have spread out of Africa into Asia and Europe about 2 million years ago. (Sept. 29, 2018)
I think this speaks for itself…”We are one global species with an African heritage,” according to an exhibit at the Maropeng Visitor Center which is part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. (Sept. 29, 2018)