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KKwaZulu-Natal’s Freedom Route offers a multi-perspective view of life under apartheid, thanks to its melting pot of cultures. See the landmarks, walk in struggle heroes' footsteps and admire the statues and plaques built in their memory by successive generations who today enjoy the fruits of a democratic country.
Walk in their shoes, visit their homes and discover the celebrated struggle heroes of KwaZulu-Natal whose fight for freedom left a legacy for future generations of South Africans.
The KwaZulu-Natal Freedom Route spans the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, leading struggle history pilgrims on a fascinating journey through museums, homes and hideouts of the region's many anti-apartheid activists.
Durban's KwaMuhle Museum chronicles the lives of Africans who lived and worked in Durban from 1928 to the late 1980s. View the city through their eyes and learn more about labour regulations, separate housing and the protest action taken against such restrictions.
The Luthuli Museum celebrates the life and times of human-rights visionary Albert Luthuli. Set in his former home, the museum features significant belongings, a life-size model of the man himself and numerous photographic records of his humanitarian work.
On the outskirts of Durban lies the Cato Manor informal settlement, formerly an inter-cultural blend of Indian and African dwellings. Once home to noteworthy South Africans such as late musician Sipho Gumede and President Jacob Zuma, the area has overcome the riots of 1949 and 1959 and subsequent squatter status to become an integrated community.
North of Durban, along the Inanda Heritage Route, is Phoenix, where Mahatma Gandhi shared his belief in passive resistance. There's also the Ohlange Institute, the first educational facility in South Africa built by Africans for Africans, which was founded by John Langalibalele Dube, the first president of the South African Native National Congress (which became the ANC).
Dating back well over a century, Pietermaritzburg's old prison has survived significant historical events. It features a museum block, gallows, execution block, cells that once held a number of national heroes, and a newly created Project Gateway community development initiative.
Other historical sites worth visiting in the vicinity include Mahatma Gandhi's statue, the old Pietermaritzburg station, the Alan Paton Centre & Struggle Archives, and Sobantu township.
Of particular interest is the Mandela Capture Site near Howick. It was here that the late Nelson Mandela was arrested on 5 August 1962 – this was the catalyst for a series of trials, culminating in the Rivonia Treason Trial that would ultimately see him spend 27 years in prison.
Until relatively recently, the Mandela Capture Site was just a small bricked area with a plaque. But on the 50th anniversary of this event in 2012, an impressive steel sculpture and visitor centre was unveiled to give full recognition to the significance of this spot.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Durban Local History Museums
Tel: +27 (0)31 311 2223
Tel: +27 (0)32 559 6822
Mandela Capture Site
Tel +27 (0)72 351 0967
Tel +27 (0)87 148 8692
How to get here
All the sites around Durban and Pietermaritzburg are within driving distance of the respective city centres, and many are within walking distance of one another.
Things to do
Pop into the BAT Centre at the Yacht Mall in Durban and enjoy cultural displays and artwork; or visit the adjacent Port Natal Maritime Museum for something a little nautical. Try a beachfront rickshaw ride or visit uShaka Marine World for daily dolphin and penguin shows.
To get the most out of your tour, hire a trained, accredited community guide.
What will it cost?
Many sites are free to enter. Check fees with the individual institutions, or your tour guide, beforehand.
What to pack
Wear comfy walking shoes, and in summer (November to February) take sun precautions. An umbrella or raincoat will come in handy in winter. Be practical about carrying valuables like a camera or a video camera. Take a backpack to store them in, out of sight, when not in use.
Curio sellers at the beachfront sell handmade mats, pots, keyrings, sandals and more.
- Durban Tourism
- Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism
- Durban Local History Museums
- The Luthuli Museum
- Alan Paton Centre & Struggle Archives