In Soweto lies a street where two Nobel peace Prize winners once lived. It is the only street in the world where you can find two residences of men with such calibre. This famous street is Vilakazi Street where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once lived.
A walk through the street tells one knows tourist activity taking place around the street. The street has vendors selling traditional clothing made from African cloth, curios moulded from recycled paper. As we were passing by we asked from the owner of the merchandise to take photos of his art works and he said: “Do you know the reason why I have let you take photos? [Then silence] Because I let the Chinese and Mexicans take photos too!” He then laughed exposing his not so closely packed dental formula.
Going up the road stands a fancy fence with a glass on the front written “Mandela House”. There were people of different nationalities at the house some searching for their way in others moving out. One finds the cashier just after making entry inside the premises the fee for nationals from all African Union Countries is R40 (about K1 600).
After paying the entry fee we were greeted by a young woman who introduced herself but refused sought for anonymity as she said she was not the right authority for publicity of the facility.
Use cameras, recorders and taking notes were prohibited as she narrated the story of Vilakazi 8115. She was so sharp that she told the whole story of the museum as if she had it written down somewhere.
As she passionately narrates the story one discovered the house that was built in 1945 was occupied by Nelson Mandela as its first occupant with his first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase and his first son Makgatho Lewanika Mandela. They divorced in 1957 because she was a member of the Jehova witness and they their faith does not tolerate politics. They were later joined by Nomzamo Winifred Madikizera (Winnie) in 1958.
However, Mandela spent little time in the house as he was always on the run because of his role in the struggle and was forced underground in 1961, living as a fugitive until his arrest in 1962. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.
He returned to 8115 in 1990 after his release from Robben Island and stayed there for 11 days before moving to Beverly Hills Soweto with his wife Winnie. He then moved to his house in Houghton.
The house was donated to the Soweto Heritage Trust on September 1 1997.
A tour though the house will show bullet holes on the house, preserved items such as his couch, the coal stove that he used, the gifts he received from friends and other items that have sentimental value. The house has soot still on it as it was bombed twice during in its existence. Some items which were donated by the Mandelas to the nearby were rebought to be exhibited in the museum.
Moving though the timeline we went to a restaurant nearby just opposite Desmond Tutu’s residence which is also a heritage site, where they offered a buffet meal for R180. The meal was accompanied by South African popular struggle hymns.
As the meal was being enjoyed a commotion right on the road. People stood to see what it was. It was the panstulas doing a free-style street performance.
The panstula dance moves were entangled in acrobatics spiced with stunts such as juggling a hat and playing with a lit cigarette in his mouth without putting off the fire. That was a dramatic sign-off from Vilakazi Street.