28 May 2013
The newly refurbished Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory will soon be officially opened for South Africans and visitors to the country to explore and enjoy the legacy of the life and times of Nelson Mandela.
Speaking to SAnews during an event to showcase the refurbished centre in Johannesburg on Monday, Sello Hatang, who will take over the reins as the centre’s CEO on June 1, said: “We’ve got a centre that is beginning to re-imagine itself as a public resource.
“We hope that in August or September when we [officially] open, a lot of south Africans, people from other countries in Africa, including the global community, will be able to come and enjoy what we have here.
“We want to serve as a centre that will galvanise people to do Mandela Day activities daily, organise people around dialogue, and share Madiba’s legacy.”
Hatang said the facility represented the final transition of Mandela’s post-presidential office into a public and dialogue facility, as well as a physical home for Madiba’s legacy, adding that Mandela did not belong to any one institution, but was a global resource to be shared.
Hatang noted that entry to the refurbished centre would be free but by appointment only, as the facility would not be able to cater to large numbers of visitors at the same time.
50 years since arrival on Robben Island
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who attended Monday’s event, said the refurbishing of the centre also coincided with the 50th anniversary of Mandela’s arrival on Robben Island.
It was on 27 May 1963 when Mandela arrived on Robben Island as a prisoner for the first time, just over six months after he was sentenced to five years in prison for leaving the country without a passport and inciting workers to strike.
Motlanthe said Madiba was an iconic figure not only for the country, but for the international community as well.
The Deputy President also emphasised the importance of archives in measuring progress towards goals.
“Distance in a temporal sense is managed by the future as projected by those who came before us. We need to go back in time and mine the important resolutions and dreams from the archives to measure how far we’ve come,” he said.
The acting chairperson of the Mandela Centre of Memory and chairperson of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, said the three key objectives of the centre were to deliver to the world an integrated information resource on the life and times of Nelson Mandela; to convene dialogues on critical social issues of the day; and to share Madiba’s legacy through campaigns such as Mandela Day.
The centre’s outgoing CEO, Achmat Dangor, said he had learned two important lessons from Mandela: firstly, that when you are fundraising, “don’t leave without the cheque”. And secondly, “when you bring people together who agree with one another, that’s a chat; but when they disagree and want to talk about it, that’s dialogue.”
Exploring the centre
Guests at Monday’s event were invited to browse the centre’s reading room and spend a moment in Madiba’s post-presidential office, which has been transformed into a public dialogue facility. The office has been preserved exactly as he left it in 2010.
The upper level of the centre has been transformed into an interactive space for visitors, with a permanent exhibition called The Life & Times of Nelson Mandela.
It will also feature a reading room for research and reference work, as well as facilities to host discussions.
On the lower level, a high-tech archival storage facility has been created for the centre’s archival collections, including Madiba’s personal papers.