South Africa’s National Heritage Council has proposed a new World Heritage Route to UNESCO based on sites that played a key role in the struggle against apartheid. It would be known as the "Liberation Heritage Route". If accepted by UNESCO it would not only help to preserve this important period in South Africa's history, but would also make a hugely popular, if demanding tourist trail.
Thirteen sites have been identified so far, but more could be added at a later date.
Already a UNESCO World Heritage site in its own right, Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town is where most of the political enemies of the apartheid regime, including Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned, serving their time doing back-breaking hard labour in the quarries.
Africa’s first Black University, in the Eastern Cape, was responsible for educating many of the nationalist leaders who went on to lead their countries to independence, including Nelson Mandela (South African), Seretse Khama (Botswana), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Charles Njonjo (Kenya) and others.
On 26 Jun 1955 , 3000 people gathered on a dusty patch of open ground in Kliptown, Soweto, for the ANC’s Congress of the People. The Freedom Charter was born, the manifesto that underpinned South Africa's struggle for liberation. That patch of ground is now a National Heritage site, named after Walter Sisulu, one of the great anti-apartheid activists. One of four squares in Soweto, it has a four-star hotel, The Soweto on Freedom Square, event facilities, restaurants, and entertainment as well as memorials.
The Nelson Mandela Museum has two main sites under its umbrella. The main museum is in his childhood home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape. The Mandela Family Museum was the home he shared with Winnie in Orlando West, Soweto.
A highly intellectual man,
Banned from associating the Black People’s Convention that he had helped to found, charismatic young leader, Steve Biko, was forced to return to his hometown of King William’s Town in what was then the Transkei. His home and the Zanempilo Clinic which he helped set up are both on the UNESCO list. His gravesite, the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance, just out of town, is also a National Heritage site.
Once the site of one of South Africa’s most notorious prisons, the Johannesburg jail where the Rivonia defendents were held during their trial, Constitution Hill is now home to South Africa’s inspirational Constitutional Court and a living museum.
Albert Luthuli was one of the earliest leaders of the national liberation struggle, leading the ANC until his death in 1967. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960, the first African to receive the honour. His home in Groutville, north of Durban near the Kwazulu coast is now a museum.
Hector Pieterson, a 13-year-old boy gunned down during the 1976 Soweto Uprisings, speaks silently for hundreds of other students killed and wounded while protesting about having to learn in Afrikaans. Their memorial and museum in Soweto is profoundly moving.
The Sharpeville Massacre, led by <a href="http://goafrica.about.com/od/legacytours/a/robertsobukwe.htm">Robert Sobukwe</a> on 21 March 1960, began as a protest against the hated Pass laws. Unarmed marchers descended en masse on the police station demanding to be arrested for not carrying their ID papers. The police panicked and opened fire, killing 69 and injuring 180. One of the bleakest days in the history of South Africa, the day is now commemorated in South Africa’s Human Rights Day every 21 March.