South African history is full of conflict, characterised by many heroes. A visit to famous graves throughout the country gives visitors a deeper understanding of the people who have shaped South Africa’s past. Pay homage to the Zulu king Shaka, struggle hero Steve Biko and human rights activist Helen Joseph.

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King Shaka is buried where he fell when assassinated by his brothers.

Important moments on the map of South African history are plotted by the graves of South African heroes, martyrs and soldiers who died defending their beliefs and their country. Visiting the final resting places of people who have helped to shape South Africa gives unique insight into the country’s turbulent history.

The final resting place of King Shaka ka Senzangakhona can be found in the town of Kwa-Dukuza in KwaZulu-Natal. This simple grave with a large granite headstone lies alongside a busy street and is flanked by a museum of Zulu culture depicting the lineage of the Zulu kings from Shaka himself to the present-day King Goodwill Zwelithini.

The graves of many South African icons of the freedom struggle are poignant reminders of what was sacrificed for our young democracy. A notable site is the grave of Steve Bantu Biko, the Black Consciousness leader who died in custody at the hands of the apartheid government in 1977. Biko is buried in Ginsberg cemetery near King William’s Town in what is now known as the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance.

At the Avalon Cemetery in Soweto lies the grave of struggle hero and Communist Party leader Joe Slovo. It’s impossible to miss the grave with its prominent tombstone that’s designed to resemble the hammer and sickle of the Communist party.

Hector Pieterson, the first victim of the Soweto 1976 student uprisings, and human rights activist Helen Joseph, among others, are also buried at the Avalon Cemetery, which is the biggest cemetery in the country.

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