Robben Island: A world Heritage Site

On the 1st of December 1999, UNESCO listed Robben Island as a World Heritage site.

Robben Island (Dutch for ‘Seal Island’) was listed because it was recognised as an area of outstanding natural, historical and cultural value. It has come to symbolise, not only for South Africa and the African continent, but also for the entire world, the triumph of humanity over enormous hardship and adversity.

King Maqoma at the Long March to Freedom at Fountains Valley Pretoria. He was banished to Robben Island twice.

When the Dutch arrived to settle the Cape in the 17th century they soon began to put the island to use as a prison, a role it continued to play until 1991. Three generations of political prisoners occupied it in the second half of the 20th century. Among its early permanent inhabitants were political leaders from various Dutch colonies, including Indonesia. However in the 1840s, Robben Island was also chosen for a hospital because it was both secure (isolating dangerous cases) and healthy (providing a good environment for cure). The island was thus used as a leper colony and animal quarantine station.

The first prisoner on the island is believed to have been Autshumato in the mid-17th century. He was banished to the island in 1658 because he was taking back cattle the people believed to have been unfairly confiscated by European settlers. Autshumato was also one of the only prisoners to have escaped successfully. Makanda Nxele, a Regent of the amaRharhabe was also sentenced to life imprisonment at Robben Island after a failed uprising at Grahamstown in 1819 during the fifth of the Xhosa Wars. He drowned on the shores of Table Bay after escaping the prison. King of the Ngqika Xhosa, Maqoma was banished to the island twice together with his wife Katyi for 21 years. Maqoma’s grave is on Robben Island to this day. These chiefs and Kings are part of the Long March to Freedom procession at Fountains Valley in Pretoria.

During the Apartheid years Robben Island became internationally known for its institutional brutality. The duty of those who ran the Island and its prison was to isolate opponents of Apartheid and to crush their morale. However, those imprisoned on the Island succeeded on a psychological and political level in turning a prison ‘hell-hole’ into a symbol of freedom and personal liberation.



Haile Selassie: A Glamorous and Decorated Emperor

Haile Selassie was crowned the Emperor of Ethiopia on this day, 2 November 1930.

He was born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael, the son of the noted general Ras Mokonnen and the grandnephew of Emperor Menelik II. Selassie became Ethiopia’s 225th and last emperor in 1974 after he was deposed by a military coup. A brilliant student, he became a favourite of Menelik, who made him a provincial governor at 14. As a Coptic Christian, Tafari opposed Menelik’s grandson and successor, Lij Yasu, who became a Muslim convert, and in 1916 compelled his deposition and established Menelik’s daughter Zauditu as empress. Tafari was regent from 1916 to 1930 and after the empress’ mysterious death, he became emperor (1930-1974) and took the name of Haile Selassie (‘Might of the Trinity’), claiming to be a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. As a result of this, many believed he was the promised messiah hence the emergence of the Rastafarian movement.

Emperor Haile Selassie at the Long March To Freedom, Fountains Valley Resort in Pretoria.

Selassie was a highly decorated emperor as is seen in his flamboyant style of dress and the many badges that he wore. It comes as no surprise that his coronation on 2 November 1930 was a very glamorous affair. It was attended by royals and dignitaries from all over the world. One newspaper report suggested that the celebration may have incurred a cost in excess of $3,000,000 in today’s terms. Many of those in attendance received lavish gifts and in one instance, the Christian emperor even sent a gold-encased bible to an American bishop who had not attended the coronation, but who had dedicated a prayer to the emperor on the day of the coronation.

As the Commander of the armed forces he held the highest military order in Ethiopia which was that of the Sealed Marshall. After the end of World War II he ceased to wear any sort of Ethiopian ceremonial attire and although he would deviate without any particular reason he wore military attire in the main as he believed in militant resistance to colonisation and oppression. He would dress glamorously during official occasions with his many military badges, military swords, ribbons and a plummeted hat in accordance with his many Ethiopian orders. These included the Order of Solomon, Order of the Holy Trinity, Order of Menelik II, Order of the Star of Ethiopia. Grand Cordon, The Most Exalted Order of the Queen of Sheba Knight Grand Cross, The Imperial Order of the Holy Trinity Knight Grand Cross, The Imperial Order of Emperor Menelik II Negus (Knight Grand Cross), The Imperial Order of the Star of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie Medal of War, Eritrean Medal of Haile Selassie I among scores of others.

His sculpture at the Long March to Freedom procession at Fountains Valley is just as decorated as he was, courtesy of artist Izidro Duarte who worked hard to ensure that the statue represented the emperor as accurately as possible.

Follow these links to learn more about Selassie’s many medals and honours-


Veteran radio broadcaster, former Metro FM DJ and musician Glen Lewis recently graced us with his presence at Fountains Valley Resort in Pretoria to shoot his soon to be released music video for his upcoming single, Healing.

Glen Lewis poses with Walter and Albertina Sisulu during a break

Lewis said that he chose to shoot his video at the Long March To Freedom procession because he felt that the icons represented the road to healing and were a symbol of the need and possibility of healing in our nation. He thought the site would also provide unique visuals which are relevant to the theme of his song. The video is also of significance as it helps to inform the public of the existence of the Long March To Freedom as it educates the youth and the world as a whole.

Lewis also expressed his love for the statues of Steve Biko and Solomon Mahlangu. He however, spent most of the shooting at the back with the Kings and chiefs who were the pioneers of the struggle for freedom. He promised to spread the word about the National Heritage Monument and we hope that you spread the word too!

We will definitely share the link to the video as soon as it is released.

Heritage Month Highlights

The month of September was packed with exciting events and developments that made it a memorable celebration of our heritage at Fountains Valley in the City of Tshwane. The excitement around Spring day on the 1st and the new Instagram frames were an instant hit among visitors signalling the increasing popularity of the Long March To Freedom as one of the leading tourist and heritage destinations in the country.

Young couple poses with instagram phrame and chief Maqoma in the background.

Heritage Day, held every year on the 24th September, was definitely the main highlight of the month. Tumo, one of the Long March tour guides, was on site on the day and said of his experience with the many visitors,

On Heritage Day South Africans proved they were not Heritage Refugees by flooding in their numbers to the Long March to Freedom wearing different cultural regalia … It was so spectacular that I wished dressing in our traditional clothing would be an everyday thing. (Tumo Bopape. Long March to Freedom site guide)

Many visitors found the Long March to Freedom so inspiring they had to resort to song and dance to honour their heroes. For example, during heritage weekend the baPedi could be seen dressed in their traditional garb, dancing around King Sekhukhune. Tumo said people were decked out in different traditional attires that would complement the type of fashion displayed by some of the Long March figures who themselves are depicted in traditional dress, most notably Chiefs Faku, Tshwane, Pilane and Dalisile.

The National Heritage Monument was extremely excited to welcome King Haile Selassie as the newest addition to the Long March To Freedom during this festive month. He is one of the most colourful and greatly anticipated sculptures to date and a most valued addition to the almost 100 heroes on site. Other ‘newcomers’ to the site included King Cetshwayo and Chiefs Langalibalele, Doman and Sekhukhune, four of our sculptures that had been on loan to the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town for the 350-year celebrations. They were now safely returned to their rightful place at Fountains Valley. King Cetshwayo became the centre of attention as he came new and improved from the foundry at Sculpture Casting Services. He now had a more colourful blanket which site guide Momo thought made him the best sculpture among all the statues and her all out favourite so far.

The Mamelodi  Sundowns Junior Academy also graced us with their presence towards the end of the month. The visit, according to Alfred Mahapa was in remembrance of former Robben Island inmates and the role of football in their lives in prison. The youngsters had a lot of passion and willingness to learn and celebrated the heroes in song. It was inspiring to watch them sing around the statue of Chris Hani as they honoured him.


Youngsters from the Sundowns Academy enjoy their time at the Long March To Freedom.

We also commemorated the deaths and births of some of our most prominent icons. We celebrated Yusuf Dadoo’s birthday on the 5th of September and commemorated the 40th anniversary of Steve Biko’s death on the 12th of September, an important event to celebrate as many visitors remember his contribution to the struggle through his ideologies. Interestingly, Ray Alexander, a heroine of trade unionism, another bronze figure in our procession, also passed away on the 12th of September. An eventful month for the Long March to Freedom, where we consider every day, Heritage Day.





The Long March To Democracy

Today the National Heritage Monument celebrates the International Day of Democracy which is a United Nations observance day. However, it is not a public holiday. The United Nations General Assembly resolved on November 8, 2007, to make September 15 the annual date to promote and raise awareness on the centrality of democracy in our systems of government today.

The Long March to Freedom procession is in itself a celebration of democracy and the struggle it took to achieve it.  It brings South Africa’s’ struggle to life through almost a hundred life size bronze figures which will grow into a procession of over 400 bronze statues over time. It represents the epic journey to freedom walked by iconic leaders through four epochs, demonstrating a protracted struggle which began long before the introduction of Apartheid. It began with the chiefs who led the Wars of Resistance in the 17th century, followed by early activists and intellectuals of the 1900s, the revolutionaries of the Defiance era after 1948 and lastly the struggle period from 1960 to 1994.

The preamble of the United Nations resolution on democracy affirmed that:

  • While democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy and that democracy does not belong to any country or region.
  • Democracy is a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, countries can be classified into four categories which are full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes. In 2016, the United States was downgraded from a full to a flawed democracy. By the end of 2016, only 5.5 % of countries in the world were classified as Full Democracies.

This year’s theme of democracy and conflict prevention focuses on the critical need to strengthen democratic institutions to promote peace and stability. The day is observed by many countries all over the world. In 2015, to mark International Day of Democracy, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Pakistan organized a seminar on civil society engagement in social and political life in Pakistan. In Australia this year, one can participate by wearing black and bringing posters to Brisbane.

In spite of the fact that the day is not a public holiday which might make it less known and celebrated  than other observance days, the National Heritage Monument seeks to bring it to the fore this year. The bronze figure procession at Fountains Valley Recreation Resort, tells the compelling story of how the journey to Democracy which reached its height in 1994 with the first democratic elections, began as far back as the 1650s. Over three centuries before Nelson Mandela endured 27 years at Robben Island, rebel chiefs such as Autshumato who was banished to the Island twice in the 1650s had paved the path to resistance and  struggle which their descendants was to walk.  In 1819, Makhanda, advisor to Xhosa Chief Ndlambe, Regent of the amaRharhabe, was also transported to Robben Island along with David Stuurman who had recently been recaptured by the British for leading resistance to colonial encroachment. We also celebrate heroines such as Harriette Colenso, an advocate of democracy who became the first woman to give testimony before the British House of Commons when she spoke on King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayos’ behalf. This was when he was arrested and charged for alleged involvement in the Anti-Poll Tax Rebellion led by Bhambatha. The National Heritage Monument is indeed a place where one sees the time, sacrifice and dedication that our predecessors gave for democracy to be achieved.



eTV Visits the Long March To Freedom!

The month of August is a time when we celebrate iconic women who contributed to South Africa’s liberation. On the 9th of August 1956, over 20 000 women from all walks of life marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the carrying of passes. This march, is the inspiration behind Women’ Day as never before in South African history had women risen on such a large scale to fight injustice. We also celebrate every woman who fought for justice even before and after 1956.

It was a day of fun, education and games as the eTV crew and presenters visited Fountains Valley Resort. This was in line with preparations for Women’s month, whereby they were recording inserts for the eTV shows Frenzy and Sisterhood. Our tour guide, Tumo kicked off the day by giving the presenters Walterique and Nkanyiso a tour of the statues, explaining why they were so important. He explained that Fountains Valley is a resort in which one finds an amazing procession of South African heroes known as the Long March To Freedom.

Tumo explaining the Long March to Freedom to Walterique and Nkanyiso

One of the figures that captured the attention of the presenters was Queen Labotsibeni. They were fascinated to learn that she was a powerful woman who took over the Swazi throne after the death of her husband at a time when few African kingdoms allowed women to rule. She went on to form political alliances with the ANC and as a result was inducted as one of its Deputy Presidents. This was again a first as in its early years, the ANC, then called the South African Native National Congress, did not allow full membership of women to the party. This convinced the presenters that indeed she deserved to be honoured and recognised during the Women’s month. Annie Silinga was also one of the significant otherwise lesser known struggle icons that the presenters got to know about. Her refusal to carry a pass for all her life really made her stand out.

The bubbly Walterique went on to interview our Heritage Manager Sarah regarding the technical process of making a bronze statue. Sarah explained that although professional and experienced artists make the statues, there is also a mentorship programme where students from Tshwane University of Technology for example are given an opportunity to make statues and learn new skills as well. Asked which of the statues her favourite was, Sarah chose Lillian Ngoyi. She explained that Ngoyi was a powerful woman because she chose to lead women during the struggle when conditions were extremely difficult and very few would have made that choice under the same circumstances. Lillian Ngoyi was the principal leader of the Women’s march against passes.

There were many discussions off camera as well which showed that the presenters and crew were not only interested in recording but were very much captivated by the Long March to Freedom. The sun was scorching hot and the directors and cameramen ensured that recordings were perfect by asking for a retake here and there. However this did not in any way dampen spirits as the presenters found the energy to play games which they were taught by Tumo.
There is no doubt that the show will be great.

The Frenzy episode which features the LongMarchToFreedom will be broadcast on the 15th of August on eTV at 16h00 and again on Friday the 18th of August at 16h00.