Eastern Cape DestinationsQunu, Wild Coast
Just south of Mthatha (Umtata) in the Eastern Cape, the rolling green hills of a cluster of villages known as Qunu have recently been added to the map in South Africa because of their association with Madiba. Qunu is the village where Nelson Mandela spent his childhood and it is close to Mthatha, where the Nelson Mandela Museum opened in February 2000.
All 18 communities that fall under the Qunu village have been affected positively by the recent attention. They have access to water, electricity, computer labs, libraries and pre-schools and the people, deeply rooted in Xhosa culture, are proud to have Madiba as the reason for the growth in interest and tourism. More and more tourists are adding Qunu to their itinerary and ocean liners, anchoring in East London, are sending their passengers by road to Qunu through the beautiful Great Kei River Pass.
In Qunu the air is unpolluted and you can still see the Tembu and Xhosa women in their colourful and traditional dress with white ochre tattooed faces to protect their skins from the sun and enhance their beauty. These same pastures are where Mandela herded cattle and sheep and where you can find his retirement home and the Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre. People from all over the world are interested in visiting Qunu and the youth have plans to form a tourism organisation and to include Qunu in hiking trails in the Wild Coast area in order to encourage further tourism.
After his release, Mandela built a small house on his family plot, said to be a replica of where he spent his last years in Victor Vester prison. He has subsequently built a bigger house where he stays when visiting Qunu. The community of Qunu, who are still largely reliant on subsistence farming and traditional ways of life, is very hospitable and only too happy to share experiences and stories with tourists.
The Eastern Cape produced a number of other heroes from the anti-apartheid era - Walter Sisulu, Thabo Mbeki, Steve Biko, Chris Hani and Oliver Tambo - making this area’s claim to be the ‘real Africa’ an authentic one.