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Following the trail of democracy along the Inanda Heritage Route

Some 25 kilometres north of Durban’s city centre lies the township of Inanda, a sprawling semi-rural area located in a beautiful green valley of the same name. Meaning ‘a pleasant place’ in Zulu, it was here that the liberated Nelson Mandela cast his first democratic vote as a tribute to the area’s important role in the struggle for freedom. The Inanda Heritage Route was established to allow people the opportunity to travel the journey to freedom and explore how the seeds of democracy were sown in this fertile place more than 100 years ago.

Today, Inanda forms part of the INK area which are the combined Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu townships. Merged in 2001, the area is home to about 600,000 people with many households that fall into the low-income bracket. Established in the early 1900s, Inanda is the oldest of the three areas. Through the years the area experienced rapid urbanisation especially when the apartheid government placed tighter controls on urban Africans. Much development has occurred there and most notably Bridge City, a catalytic project that will bring urban amenities, such as shopping centres, closer to the community. With the promises of a brighter future from this development in mind we looked ahead to the Inanda Heritage Route and delved into the past. 

The Ghandi Settlement

First stop on the way is the Ghandi Settlement, established by the iconic Mahatma Ghandi, an Indian lawyer who settled in South Africa. After experiencing racial discrimination on a train and being thrown off Ghandi resolved to fight against the discrimination faced by Indians in the country. During his short time in South Africa, Ghandi established the Indian Opinion, a mouthpiece for the Indian community and a self-reliant settlement in the Inanda area which was a multi-cultural place where people could labour together, drawing the same living wage and attending to the printing press in their spare time. It was here that the principle of ‘satyagraha’ or nonviolent resistance took root, a notion which Ghandi used in the movement for Indian independence after he left South Africa. His home, Sarvodaya, meaning ‘wellbeing for all’ has been resurrected and is now filled with his inner most thoughts and ideas. Guests are encouraged to enter in a state of contemplation to truly understand his unrelenting vision for peace, justice and equality for all. Also on this site is a museum and the interactive Mandela-Ghandi wall which is jam-packed with information, videos and pictures of these two influential men.

Shembe Settlement of Ekuphakameni

While Ghandi fought for social justice, the prophet Isaiah Shembe formed the Nazareth Baptist Church which integrated traditional beliefs with Christianity. Shembe and his church also stood for the active regeneration of the Zulu nation in the face of change brought on by colonialism. Then as they are now, Shembe outdoor churches were encircled with white stones and are frequently seen in Inanda and elsewhere in KwaZulu-Natal. Ekuphakameni, Shembe’s first village is still an important part of Inanda and is open for visitors however women are not allowed to wear trousers on this site.



Practical tip:

Women in trousers may be denied entry to the Shembe Settlement. Be sure to wear a dress or skirt if you plan to visit the settlement.

The Ohlange Institute

“I have come to report, Mr President, that South Africa is now free.” These words were spoken by former president Nelson Mandela over the monument of John Langalibalele Dube when he cast his first democratic vote on the 27th April 1994.  Known as ‘Mufukuzela’ or ‘the industrious one,’ John Dube was a founding member and president of the South African Native National Congress which later became the African National Congress. A firm believer in education as a means for black social and economic advancement, he founded the Ohlange Institute as a school for young African boys. The school exists today and now caters to high school boys and girls. John Dube’s two fundamental ideals were simple: to empower black South Africans to fully participate in mainstream political, social and economic life and to preserve and celebrate the traditional African culture. This stop on the Heritage Route invites visitors into his first home, to see his monument keeping careful watch over the valley below and to stand in the very spot where Nelson Mandela cast his first ballot.

The Inanda Seminary School

Founded in 1869 by American missionaries Daniel and Lucy Lindley, the Inanda Seminary School is a boarding school situated within Inanda township. Part of the Inanda Heritage Route, it stands proudly beneath graceful jacaranda trees and was originally established to educate young African girls to become good wives. The school has played host to several well-known South African figures including politician Baleka Mbete and business executive Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita. When the Lindleys left South Africa, their mission was left in the hands of Reverend James Dube, who would later father John Langalibalele Dube.

Inanda Dam

Nestled tranquilly within hilly terrain, the Inanda Dam is an important reservoir for the Durban area. Before it was built 26 important archaeological sites were excavated to reveal artifacts dating back to the Stone Age. Today the dam is popular for water sports and sport and also plays host to the second day of the famous Dusi River Canoe Marathon.

Mzinyathi Falls

Continuing along the Heritage Route, the homesteads become less dense until we turn off onto a dirt road. The transition from urban to rural is almost imperceptible. Strolling along we pass some cows and then the landscape opens into a lush gorge and in the middle are the Mzinyathi Falls. The area is seen as sacred for many reasons. It is used for baptisms by the Shembe, sangomas or traditional Zulu healers forage for herbs and plants in the area and nearby caves are used by a Rastafarian community who live there. We didn’t see any Rastafarians that day but as we stood on the edge of the gorge gazing downstream of the river I let the things I’d learned along the route that morning sink in. This is a very special place indeed.

For more information on experiencing the Inanda Heritage Route, please call Durban Tourism on +27 31 322 4164 or visit http://visitdurban.travel/.  

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