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Africa 2003 Itinerary - South Africa

Johannesburg — Day 16

  Visited Museum Africa in downtown Johannesburg

Traveled to Pretoria and visited the Voortrekker Monument

Evening lecture by Dale McKinley. Dale is an '84 Furman graduate and former member of the South African Communist Party. After being expelled from the party in 2001 for criticizing party leaders for abandoning their poor and working class constituency by joining the government and accepting its neoliberal economic program, he joined the Anti-Privatization Forum as its Press Secretary. He lectured on current politics in South Africa.

Scott McPherson said:
The speaker tonight, Dale McKinley, was incredible. He was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and is a Furman graduate. His passion for the state of the poor was infectious, and I can say that not a person who listened to his lecture was not moved in some way by it. He really attacked the ANC's current policies... if government is by the people for the good of the people, then the basic amenities that so many South Africans lack- adequate food, water, electricity, education, and healthcare- then there is no excuse for the way millions of South Africans live. 

David McGill said:
Museum Africa captures the intensity of apartheid in several different ways. Located in what appears to be the heart of Johannesburg, I imagine many residents of South Africa could have access to a building that was once established as a market for produce in 1913. The building was turned into a museum in 1994, for the sole purpose of educating the residents of Johannesburg about apartheid. Nevertheless, I imagine Museum Africa may be one of the best-kept secrets.

One of the most outstanding exhibits at Museum Africa was the Treason Trial of 1956-1961, which was reportedly the largest trial for treason to date. According to the exhibit, people were tried with treason because of their involvement in boycotts, pass law refusal, the ANC, the Communist Party, resistance organizations, strikes, and other South African political organizations. One important aspect of the exhibit was the pictures on the wall of the 156 people, which adds to the human aspects of this situation, and really gives the 156 people and identity (which I had never acknowledged before). Some people were charged with a preposterous crime for no reason at all, which I realized was just one of the ways for apartheid to control people's freedom. 

Scott McPherson said:
Today we visited the Voortrekker Memorial in Pretoria, the monument of the Afrikaners' conquest of the interior of South Africa. It's very disconcerting... I stand at the top of the biggest monument of theft that the world knows. 


Johannesburg — Day 17

City tour with Dr. Patrick Bond, Lecturer at Witswatersrand University. He is widely published scholar of urban development and environmental planning in South Africa. He took us all throughout Johannesburg, including Alexandra township and lectured to us on the city's recent history and its development and settlement patterns. In particular, he spoke about the abandonment and millions of Rand of building and investment in the downtown area.

Visited the Apartheid Museum.

Scott McPherson said:  
Today we went to the Apartheid Museum, which was very intense. The most intimidating part was the room dedicated to political assassinations. There were dozens of nooses hanging from the ceiling, dedicated to people murdered by the apartheid regime for political reasons. Everyone was silent upon entering the museum... there was a feeling of awe, of intimidation, of history, horror, remembrance... it was incredibly intense. 

Michael Scoggins said:
Today we went to the apartheid museum in Johannesburg. Before the museum we went to "Gold Reef City." We had a great lunch but to tell you the truth, it made me a little nauseous to be in such a place, especially after driving through the Alexandria township. Regardless, the Apartheid Museum was amazing. It gave me a visual representation for events that I had previously only read about.

The museum was set up so that from the moment you walk in you could really feel the apartheid. There was tremendous symbolism throughout the entire building. Every room you entered made you feel the apartheid. It hit you right in the face. There was no way to avoid it. All or at least most of the information presented were things that I had already read about at one time or another. What I had never seen before was the visual representations though. This is what I will never forget about the place. You can read all you want about the Afrikaner nationalism, the police, the protests, and the marches, but there is no way you can fully grasp what was going on until you can see it with your own eyes. When I read about a protest or a march, I am thinking about people just waking down the street holding up signs. These videos showed thousands of people running, dancing, singing, chanting, and jumping down the streets. It was protests inspired by so much emotion like I had never seen before. It appeared like there was always a rhythm to it. The people, all together, fearless and staring down the opposition. And then the police would let loose on the crowds. I had read how brutal the police were, but until you actually see them cracking skulls of young kids and letting loose the dogs on women, you can't really have an appreciation for the magnitude to the events. 


Travel from Johannesburg to Pilgrim's Rest — Day 18


  We took this opportunity to visit some areas of scenic beauty, such as God's Window, which affords vistas off the escarpment. We also went to Blyde's Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world, and comparable, albeit on a smaller scale, to the Grand Canyon. Finally we went to a natural preserve called The Potholes, where running water has carved out a serious of potholes in the bedrock.

Scott McPherson said:
Here in Pilgrims' Rest, a turn-of-the-century mining town dedicated to the gold rush, a huge thunderstorm is raging as I write here in the Halfway House. Lightning illuminates the hills standing tall in front of me and the thunder rolls its deafening peals across the night sky and echoes through the hills. I am truly doing something here that most only dream of... I know that even as I lie on my deathbed, whenever and wherever it may be, these six weeks will be something I will treasure forever.


Travel from Pilgrim's Rest to Kruger National Park — Day 19


  Morning hiking in Pilgrim's Rest

Evening game drive at Kruger Park.


Kruger National Park — Day 20

Full day game drive 

Bryan Long said:
An enjoyable break from the lectures and sights to see in Southern Africa took us to Kruger Game Reserve. As I soon found out it was not a break from learning about the history of South Africa. Paul Kruger was a former president of South Africa whom the park takes its name. Kruger was alerted to the threat of extinction of the wild animals in the area due to hunters. Kruger then set aside land to have the reserve and conserve the animals' natural habitat. The sheer size of the park is amazing and it is one of the most famous reserves of its kind in the world.

Spatially the park is equal in land size to about the size of Israel. That means it is nearly impossible to cover the entire park within a reasonable amount of time. We spent most of our time in the lower regions of the park and learned about the geology and the various types of animals, which inhabit the different areas of the park. Our guide for the evening drive was extremely knowledgeable of nearly any aspect about the park. He was especially interested in the different soil types and how when the landmasses were formed how that determines which animals can live where. The type of soil determines the vegetation and that therefore influences what kind of game drives you will encounter. It is possible to cross between different regions of shrub lands to tall thick bush within a few minutes, and the surprising difference of animal inhabitants is immediately evident. 

Kruger Park has had a positive impact in preserving the animals for future generations. The park is a living memorial to all the people who have made the conservation of this area a reality and so people can enjoy the animals and scenery for years to come. The historical significance of a place like Kruger is that humans even when they destroy such places and hunt the animals to the brink of extinction, they have the power to alter fate and preserve the area. I see the future for Kruger is a future that will benefit all people in South Africa and all over the world. The accessibility of the park to all people will ensure the protection of the area and the ability to enjoy the animals in their natural habitat for future generations.

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