Highway through History
The N3 Gateway Tourism Association not only houses scintillating scenery, plentiful accommodation options, freshly packed farm stalls and exciting activities for all; one can also learn an incredible amount of rich history from all destinations visited.
South Africa’s heritage is certainly diverse and on the N3 Gateway, we celebrate this rich diversity through places such as the KwaZulu Natal Battlefields, Project Gateway, The Capture Site, Rohde Museum, Peace Monument, Sharpeville Struggle Route and plenty more.
We start our journey along the N3 Gateway with Project Gateway, which is now housed in The Old Prison, Pietermaritzburg. The prison dates back to Voortrekker times with more than 150 years of history including the Colonial times, Apartheid, Liberation Struggle, Political Struggle, and ultimately to the dawn of democratic South Africa in 1994.
This site was commissioned in 1862, with the Monument Block being the first structure built on the site. Other buildings were constructed later, including the gallows, ‘whites only’ section, hospital, and gibbet.
There were many nationally and internationally known freedom fighters held in this medium security prison during the struggles in South Africa, including Mandela, Gandhi and others that are legends and heroes who have made a great impact on our lives today. Some of the detainees include Kasturba Gandhi, Peter Brown, Derrick Marsh, A.S. Chetty, King Dinuzulu, Moses Mabhida and Harry Gwala.
The Old Prison is also home to a ‘Time Capsule’ which was created to commemorate 150 years of Indian indenture in Pietermaritzburg, and the Gandhi Exhibition is on display in the new ‘state of the art’ museum.
The Freedom Route was initiated in October 2007. The suffering of many people from the late 1860s through to the late 1980s is depicted in The Old Prison buildings. The National Monument building together with other isolation cells are a ‘must see’, and give an idea of the torture and horror of imprisonment.
Research has also revealed that a number of people were executed at this prison. Not much is known about those executed, as many of the records have been destroyed.
The Old Prison was closed in 1989 due to overcrowding. In 1992 it was given to a group of churches that wanted to use the prison as a base from which to serve the local communities. As a result, Project Gateway (NPO) was born.
The Nelson Mandela Capture Site, which lies just 5 minutes from the N3 Tweedie turn off, on the R103, grabs your attention immediately, with its unique fifty steel column sculpture. This sculpture comes to life and reveals a side view of Nelson Mandela’s face, 30 metres from the view of the steel structure. But first, one can make their way through an informative exhibition, learning about Nelson Mandela’s heroic role in putting an end to Apartheid in South Africa.
Marco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Rose collaborated to create this 50 linear vertical steel sculptor, the largest artwork of its kind in South Africa. Just 50 years after (12 August 2012) Nelson Mandela was flagged down and arrested by an armed Apartheid policeman, the Nelson Mandela Capture site was unveiled, at the farm across the road from the monument site.
Heading up the R103 towards Johannesburg, through the Midlands Meander, one finds oneself on your way towards Mooi River. Having taken the Mooi River to turn off, passing through the town centre, you can visit the Rohde House Museum. Mooi River was given its name by the Afrikaans settlers, who thought the river was ‘pretty’ (mooi). The Rohde House Museum is an old house previously owned by Edgar Rohde and now converted to a museum. The museum describes the birth of Mooi River, the polo interest, dairy farms, Zulu beadwork and photographic displays of the local township Bruntville along with the 1500 bed military hospital established in the area during the Second Boer War.
Moving further up the N3 Toll Concession, we take the R54 towards Vereeniging, where one can find the Peace Monument. The Peace Monument was erected to commemorate the Anglo-Boer War. Unveiled in 1961 and sculptured by Coert Steynberg, who used granite and steel. The reclining figures depict the two Boer Republics who lost their freedom by signing the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging. The steel figure rising from the heart of the reclining figure represents a new South Africa nation born as a result.
The Anglo-Boer war was fought 1899-1902, throughout the country. The two former Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and Transvaal fought the British for Independence. It ended with a British victory and annexation of both republics.
The Sharpeville Struggle Route takes you through one of South Africa’s most iconic and historically significant townships, just 45 minutes from Johannesburg. The Sharpeville Human Rights Precinct, which was opened by Nelson Mandela in 2001, includes a memorial and exhibition centre, created to honour the victims that fell to their death fighting against the pass law in Sharpeville 1960. On the 21st of March 1960, an anti-pass demonstration took place, where 5000 people were seen, however, the Apartheid police opened fire and killed 69 people and seriously injured 180 demonstrators. The massacre was seen by the world and definitely increased efforts in fighting the Apartheid regime.
South Africa remembers those who were lost during the Sharpeville Massacre each year on the 21st of March, as Freedom Day, to celebrate South Africa’s unique constitution, giving equal rights to all.