Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites

Photo by Els Slots.

Human Rights, Liberation Struggle and Reconciliation: Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites is part of the Tentative list of South Africa in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Human Rights, Liberation Struggle and Reconciliation: Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites (submitted in 2015) is a serial nomination expanding and refining the earlier 2009 nomintaion “Liberation Heritage Route”. It unites different places immortalizing distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features associated with the liberation struggle against the apartheid regime, but also the reconciliation justice and forgiveness.

Map of Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Bernard Joseph Esposo Guerrero

The Philippines - 23-Mar-23 -

Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites (T) by Bernard Joseph Esposo Guerrero

From what is written on what is available online regarding its nomination, South Africa did a good job with site selection and which crucial stages in the history of the movement should be included. The Nara Document on Authenticity plays a key role in developing the OUV, and it is this kind of nomination that we should see more moving forward: veering away from what can only be seen tangibly, but also focusing on what they represent and how people themselves and others can relate to it. 

Growing up in the 90s, the Apartheid was an issue that was hard to miss. But, I must admit I did not fully understand it until only recently, after three separate visits to South Africa. The sites are but representative sites, and having been able to go around the country during those cherished visits, they definitely are just "flag bearers" of a deeper, more sophisticated struggle and story of victory that is global in scope, effort, and effect. 

I visited (inside and outside) five sites on this recent trip namely, the Union Buildings, the Palace of Justice and the Rivonia Trial Site, the Freedom Park Memorial Site, the Constitution Hill and Truth & Reconciliation Commission, as well as Sophiatown forced removal site. In my first visit to SA in 2016, I also got to substantially explore District Six in Cape Town (my friend once owned a unit at the heart of Zonnenbloem), which is part of the nomination but is not reflected in the map here on our website - I guess because its coordinates are not provided in the nomination file? The recently opened and highly recommended Desmond Tutu Gallery in the Old VOC Granary downtown is also a good place to visit, and when combined with the District Six Museum form an invaluable "related literature" to better understand what this nomination is all about. I've also roamed around Pietermaritzburg and Mthatha before, both of which speak loudly about the fight for freedom, or of Mandela's narrative at least.

Given that international attention will be on these sites in preparation for its hopeful inscription this year, some sites have become political showrooms for the Subalterns for the world to see: in the Union Buildings grounds, the so-called "King of the First Nation," a San, set up an unmissable camp voicing out their unfortunate plight and near-non-existence in the present South African social framework, while in Church Square, where the Palace of Justice is located, LGBT booths are spread out giving free services to anyone in need. Interestingly, the monument of Paul Kruger at the heart of the square is fenced off, possibly to avoid vandalism by those who still harbor anti-colonial sentiments. The story of struggle and hope, indeed, continues! The opening of the D. Tutu Gallery can, likewise, be considered as a way of beefing things up.  

Constitution Hill keeps up with its nickname "Robben Island of Joburg" and I probably found it more insightful than the tour I had in Robben Island years ago (maybe because the story is more inclusive in CH? It also talks about the common people), while Sophiatown --like District Six-- stands as a memorial to the worst expressions of the Apartheid. Their humble museum housed in one of the only two original houses left on site is worth a visit (free entry), and the murals around its fence do not fail to capture the pain this once colorful and artsy neighborhood (birthplace of South African jazz) went through and its aspiration to move forward. These are just components of culture that cannot be reduced and downplayed. Also, it is a relatively safe corner of the notorious city, so I felt comfortable walking around.

Contrary to the previous comment, this nomination undoubtedly and rightfully has a place on the list, and deserves some time to be fully appreciated given that it is a serial site. The Gandhi sites in India, too. My appreciation to this nomination, as reflected in this review, stems from a cumulative 3.5 months stay in South Africa.

Zoë Sheng

Chinese-Canadian - 13-Feb-19 -

Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites (T) by Zoë Sheng

I find this nomination lacking any real credit for unique value to the world. Yes, Mandela was a great man, apartheid was bad (and still exists here) and one could argue that it had impact on the world and not just within South Africa. However, just like India's attempt to inscribe the Gandhi sites, these are memories of history that do not belong on the world heritage list.

So nevertheless I stopped by the Apartheid museum at the capture site on the way to Durban and their museum is still not open until May 2019. Entrance is free to see the small exhibition and the Mandela sculpture at the end of the Long Walk to Freedom. I didn't find it very exciting but I donated to support them. Fact is that the location has little to nothing to do with the capture site already shows that the inscription would be odd.

I see there are many other sites included in the nomination but I am not interested in them, and if they are ever inscribed (to my own disbelief) I will be glad to have “ticked” it off in 20 minutes.

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 16-Oct-16 -

Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites (T) by Els Slots

Human Rights, Liberation Struggle and Reconciliation: Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites is the full name of a South African Tentative Site covering 13 groups of sites related to the anti-apartheid struggle. They cover locations ranging from the Sharpeville Massacre site to prominent institutions for missionary education which “produced Southern African leaders who presented a synthesis of Western and African values”. It needs a good understanding though of South African history during the past 100 years to get a full grasp of what’s included and why. But I was willing to be educated.

As I had another long drive ahead of me – 440km between the WHS of iSimangaliso and Drakensberg – I decided to visit two of these anti-apartheid sites along the way. I first hit the town of Groutville for the ‘Chief Albert Luthuli Home & Museum’. The museum is already signposted from the highway. Fortunately so, as my TomTom navigation did not recognize any street adress in Groutville. The town is definitely not one on the itinerary of European tourists, crossing South Africa from (white) tourist enclave to another. Groutville is 99.6% black. To me it felt like a town in the Deep South of the USA.

Before I prepared this trip I had never heard of Albert Luthuli, but he was an important predecessor of Mandela. Luthuli was president of the ANC in the 1950s and 1960s, and advocated nonviolent resistance against apartheid. It earned him the Nobel Peace Prize already in 1960. The house where he lived most of his life has become a museum since 2004. After signing in at the gate, I was shown around by a serious young guide. In the garden Luthuli had a special place of contemplation. Here he also received his guests (he was only allowed to see one at a time and forbidden to leave his hometown himself). His most famous guest was Robert F. Kennedy, who arrived in Groutville by helicopter. Within two years of their meeting both men were dead: Kennedy was assassinated, and Luthuli died in a train accident. The guide said that his family however thinks that it was not an accident but a political murder.

Driving on along the southeast coast, past Pietermaritzburg, I approached the second location. It’s the ‘Mandela Capture Site’ at Howick. The site isn’t signposted as well around town as the Luthuli Museum, but this time my TomTom did the trick and had it listed under ‘tourist attractions’. This is the location where Mandela was arrested, the arrest which lead to his long imprisonment on Robben Island. He was stopped by the side of the road, while pretending to be the driver of a white businessman. It still is a inconspicuous spot, some 4 km outside of Howick along a secondary road.

At this symbolic location a visitor center and memorial monument have been constructed. They’re even in the process of building a grand exhibition hall: this should for example include a replica of Mandela’s cell on Robben Island. A tunnel has to connect the hall with the exact location where the arrest took place across the road near the railway tracks. Even now tourists already know to find this place. Two Dutch tour groups were already present when I arrived, and there were also numerous individual South African visitors. The exhibition now shows dozens of information panels about Mandela's life since he was a child. In the outdoor area a straight path symbolizing the Long Road to Freedom leads to a work of art. 50 jagged steel bars (a reference to prison bars) form the silhouette of Mandela’s face.

This TWHS obviously has clear links with the already inscribed Robben Island, although it is not presented as an extension. To add to the confusion there’s an earlier incarnation of this TWHS on South Africa’s Tentative List called ‘Liberation Heritage Route’ (2009), which covers both Robben Island and the Mandela Legacy sites. It seems logical though that South Africa will push on with this 2015 TWHS. Its selection of sites goes well beyond a Mandela personality cult, and brings more depth to the history of the anti-apartheid struggle than Robben Island alone. For now checking out a few of them is a good excuse to get off-the-beaten track in South Africa.

Read more from Els Slots here.

Full Name
Human Rights, Liberation Struggle and Reconciliation: Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites
South Africa
Nominated for
Human activity - Sites of Memory Structure - Memorials and Monuments
2023 Postponed

Discussion postponed indefinitely "this nomination will not be examined at the extended 45th session"

2015 Added to Tentative List

The site has 10 locations

Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites: Sharpeville 1960 Massacre Memorial Sites (T)
Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites: Waaihoek Site (T)
Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites: 16 June 1976 – The Streets of Orlando West (T)
Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites: University of Fort Hare & ZK Mathews’s House (T)
Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites: Constitutional Hill (T)
Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites: Walter Sisulu Square (T)
Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites: Ohlange (T)
Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites: Union Buildings (T)
Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites: Liliesleaf Farm (T)
Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites: Mqhekezweni (T)
WHS 1997-2024