The Nelson Mandela Capture Site

Up there with the likes of the “Apartheid Museum” in Johannesburg or the “District Six Museum” in Cape Town, or even Robben Island, the Nelson Mandela Capture Site is a moving and worthwhile destination that I think all South Africans should make pilgrimage to at some point in their lives.

Nelson Mandela is rightfully considered to be one of best (if not THE best) statesman to have even been in office – certainly in South Africa, but I would even argue it applies throughout the world! Fact is the man was great enough to inspire reconciliation rather than take the opportunity to “get back” at his opponents – this is not easy to do and only the best of us can.

The Day Leading Up To Nelson Mandela’s Capture

On the days leading up to the arrest, Nelson Mandela was traveling around Durban and meeting with high ranking officials; he was going by the name of David Motsamayi, a humble chauffeur. On the morning of his departure from Durban, he met with various leaders at the home of John Langalibalele Dube, founder and first chairperson of what was to eventually become the African National Congress (ANC) as well as Albert Luthuli in Groutville.

Occupying the car with Mandela was Cecil Williams, an English born, South African anti-apartheid activist who after being released by the policeman after 12 hours, fled abroad where he would head up the Glasgow group of anti-apartheid activists.

Nelson Mandela was driving past Howick on the old road on Sunday afternoon of 5 August 1962 when a vehicle filled with a group of white men passed them on the road to Lions River. In his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom“, Mandela remembered this moment clearly, as it was when he realised that his life was about to change, saying in his book, “At Cedara, a small town just past Howick, I noticed a Ford V-8 filled with white men shoot past us on the right… I knew in that instant that my life on the run was over; my seventeen months of ‘freedom’ were about to end.

From a tip off, now believed to be delivered from Donald Rickard of the CIA to the South African Police, Sergeant Vorster of the Pietermaritzberg police station questioned Mandela on where he was coming from and going to; Mandela stuck to his claim of being a humble chauffeur. Sgt Vorster finally said “Ag, you’re Nelson Mandela, and this is Cecil Williams, and you are under arrest“.

The (New) Nelson Mandela Capture Site

The original Nelson Mandela Capture Site was a simple barn-like building designed a little like a maze. It was humble, much like Nelson Mandela himself was. I really enjoyed the original building. And then the new building was designed and over a period of 2 years (or so) built. I am not a fan; it feels a little like the architects and planners made the building about them and not Mr Mandela.

But, be that as it may, the new building I’m sure will appeal to those who never visited the old building.

The Interpretive Center

After parking, you’ll see the signposts pointing you towards the interpretive center – the new building is very contemporary (so square and heartless – ok, I’ll stop now) and pretty hard to miss. You’ll have to get your tickets from the ticket office – it used to be free but now it’ll cost you R100 for the privilege (detailed pricing below).

Ticket in hand head towards the big sliding doors – there are two sets and one wont open unless the other is closed – this confusing state of affairs leads to people cramming into the gap between the two sliding doors, not exactly something anyone should be doing right now.

Once you’ve finally negotiated the sliding doors you’ll enter the first large room (kinda like a hall) where you’ll see an automobile standing alongside a huge poster on the wall.

If you head on past this you’ll enter the main exhibit area, again a very large structure that is home to a center display table along with posters and audio visual slides on the surrounding walls. The center display table holds various memorabilia not only relating to Nelson Mandela himself, but from the period as well.

This section took my group and I around 20 minutes or so to navigate before we got bored. Again, the old way so much better but there you go.

Once done with the main exhibit you can then wander about the center looking for the doorway to the steel structure or simply ask the nearby attendants to point the way – there is no signage, well there wasn’t during my visit in March this year.

The Memorial Structure

This is kinda where you’ll get bang for your buck. Follow the pathway leading down to the bottom of the garden and you’ll see a bunch of random steel poles. As you make your way to the poles they (the poles) will begin to line up and when you reach a very specific spot right at the end of the pathway, the poles will merge into a silhouette of the great man himself.

In order to see the metal silhouette of Nelson Mandela, you do need to take your very own “long walk to freedom” from the interpretive center along a 150 meter pathway. The significance of this is the book Nelson Mandela published called the “Long Walk to Freedom”.

The memorial was deigned by Marco Cianfanelli and consists of 60 steel poles, each reaching between 6 and 10 meters achingly into the freedom of the sky.

The Actual Capture Spot

For those that don’t realise it, the actual spot Mandela was captured is actually on the other side of the road. You can see it from the sculpture at the bottom of the walkway. There used to be a bricked post with a simple bronze plaque to mark the site thought today some other structures have been built.

A word of caution: it is not a safe spot to pull over at, there’s very little room on the shoulder of the road. Rather park at the Capture Site itself and walk back – and obviously be careful of traffic!

Coffee Shop and Curio Store

Situated away from the interpretive center is a great little coffee shop where you can get coffee (obs) as well as cold drinks, a milkshake, toasted sandwiches and the like.

There is also a three curios shops selling everything from books to posters, mugs, t-shirts and so on. Some are related to Nelson Mandela, others are of the general curios found pretty much everywhere.

Contact Details for the Nelson Mandela Capture Site

What’s It Cost?

It’s always best to double check the official website (contact details below) but at the time of writing the following ticket prices were in effect;

  • Children under 12 – Free
  • Ages 12 -18 – R30 per person
  • Adults 18 – 60 : R100 per person
  • Students : R60 per person

There is a guide available at R10 per person but honestly was not much help to us, any questions asked by my group received a nod in the direction of the various displays; so our R10 per person was more of a donation than anything else.

Directions to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site from Durban

Right, it’s about as easy as any set of directions can be. Start by getting onto the N3 headed west from Durban. There is a toll at Marianhill Plaza you’ll need to budget for. Stay on the N3 for 104 kilometers until you reach the R107 turnoff, take the turnoff and turn left onto the R107.

Follow the R107 for 6km and you end up at a T-Junction. Turn right at the T-Junction onto the R103 and then straight for the next 2 kilometers – you’ll see the signposts for the Capture Site on the right hand side.

All in all it’s a round trip of around 230 kilometers from Durban.

You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the amazing steel display that is made up of a number of irregular steel spikes reaching for the skies. There is no rhyme no reason for them, except is you’re standing in one very particular spot, where upon the steel spikes resolve into the silhouette of Nelson Mandela. It is pretty damn cool.

Other Sites of Interest

Turn your visit to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site and visit some of the other attractions and sites in the area.

  • The Piggle Wiggly
  • Krantzkloof Zipline
  • Howick Falls
  • Midmar Dam
  • The Platform Art Gallery

About Shelldon

Hi, my name is Shelldon and I'm a tour guide based in the city of Durban, South Africa. For years I've been taking visitors from around the world on trips throughout South Africa. I write about the places I've visited and things I've done.

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