Sailing into Nelson Mandela Bay
Posted Friday, April 20 2012 at 18:00
- A day of sight seeing in Port Elizabeth takes us to the unusual Red Location Museum.
Port Elizabeth is a small, big town. Small in size but big in ‘things’. Skimming the outskirts of the port town, we drive past the industrial area to the ‘township’.
The South African apartheid regime had areas allocated for different races and black Africans were forced to live in townships in standard small houses.
However, driving through the New Brighton township, we are impressed that the houses are nicely painted and that each block has a playground for the children.
Our first stop is the Red Location Museum, which has nothing to do with red light districts. It portrays the struggle against the apartheid regime. This is an unusual museum designed like a gigantic box full of smaller boxes and alleys under different labels.
I read the story of the Langa Massacre where ‘the shoot to kill’ orders were given on March 21, 1985. The alley is labeled Maduna Road and the panels and pictures give the gruesome story.
In February 1985, civic leaders called for a consumer boycott in Uitenhage (near Port Elizabeth) and Port Elizabeth. Six youngsters distributing pamphlets for the boycott were shot dead.
They were to be buried on March 17, but things went horribly wrong. On March 21, 20 people were killed and 37 injured after the apartheid regime prohibited a mass gathering.
“Every town has a museum showing the struggle for freedom,” Becky Motumo, a young South African woman, tells me. “The museums are not so much for us to live in the past but for us who were very young or born after the struggle to appreciate the freedom our families had to fight for.”
Leaving the museum we drive into the city centre, past the seafront that boasts five biomes, or different vegetations. People jog and walk along a beautifully landscaped planked walkway that winds along the coastal shores.
The tourist brochure reads, “It is charming coincidence that its designated names of Port Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela Bay are synonymous with love.”
This statement comes to light when we’re suddenly facing a pyramid in an art-filled park overlooking the port town, with our cruise ship docked below.
It’s nowhere near the gigantic size of the pyramids of Giza but because it’s so unexpected to see a mini-pyramid in South Africa, we flock to it.
The pyramid is a testimony to love. The plaque on it gives the heartbroken story of Sir Rufen Donkin, acting governor of the Cape in 1820, whose wife, Elizabeth Francis Lady Donkin, died in Mirat in Upper Hindoostan (India) in 1818 after a short illness at the age of 28, leaving behind a seven-month-old infant.
Sir Donking, wrung by grief, erected the pyramid in 1820 and a smaller plaque reads “One of the most perfect human beings who has given her name to the town below”.
A last stop before lunch and we’re at Fort Frederick, named after the Duke of York and built between 1799 and 1868. It’s much smaller than our Fort Jesus but it was the first permanent militant outpost in the Eastern Province, and it is from there that the commander saw the 1820 white settlers sail into town.
In the middle of the night, we sail into the Atlantic. On land you would pass through Cape Agulhas, where the two oceans, the Indian and the Atlantic, ‘meet’ or ‘part’. Bartholomeus Diaz, the Portuguese explorer, was the first European to sail around the southernmost tip of Africa on his way to ‘discover’ the sea-route to India.