THE NELSON MANDELA MEANDER AND FREEDOM PARK
(A project suggested by TNT News several years ago)
TO THE PREMIER OF GAUTENG: MS NOMVULA PAULA MOKONYANE
Dear Ms Mokonyane,
We would like to make the following proposal to you and your council:
citizens of New York have their Central Park. Amsterdam has its Vondel
Park. Apart from offering citizens ways to relax and enjoy non-motorised
sport such as jogging and cycling, they are also major tourism
attractions surrounded by restaurants and other eateries.
have been suggestions in the press that Johannesburg should have a
similar attraction named the Igoli Park along the Braamfontein Spruit.
there is another concept created by TNT News: a Nelson Mandela Meander –
incorporating a 32 km linear country park – Freedom Park – that also
follows the Braamfonteinspruit just north of the Nelson Mandela Bridge
in the city centre, but stretches all the way up through Rivonia to
where it joins the Jukskei River near the Western Bypass.
reason we have chosen to dedicate this project to Mandela starts with
the fact that the bridge named after him connects Constitution Hill and
its Apartheid Museum with the new Newton cultural precinct. But there is
more to it.
The Rivonia trial (not trail) ended in the imprisonment of Mandela and others. It was named after Rivonia, the suburb of Johannesburg
along the Braamfonteinspruit where 19 ANC leaders were arrested at
Liliesleaf Farm, privately owned by Arthur Goldreich, on 11 July 1963.
It had been used as a hideout for the African National Congress. Among
others, Nelson Mandela had moved onto the farm in October 1961 and
evaded security police while masquerading as a gardener and cook called
David Motsamayi (meaning "the walker").
Park (for now), or the Nelson Mandela Memorial Park (for later),
starting at Melville Koppies with its beautiful but generally unseen
waterfall, should have a 28 km cycling and jogging track with signposts
and fitting memorabilia every one kilometre to remind people of the 28
years Madiba spent in jail for his part in the struggle for freedom, as
described in his autobiography – The Long Walk to Freedom.
would be a statue of Mandela at each end of the track – at the start of
him shackled, hewing stone (as he did on Robben island), and at the end
of him unshackled, stretching his arms high like a victorious athlete
on a winner’s podium.
would be a fitting tribute. South Africans and foreigners would also
like to say: “I have also walked for freedom. I have done it for/in
memory of Madiba.”
in to prevent the current vagrancy and dumping, criminal activity, and
motorised sport (noisy bikes and quadrupeds) to preserve the abundant
flora and fauna along its route, the park would offer controlled but
obviously free access to the public. This would apply especially for
members of African churches in their typical blue and white robes, who
use the stream for baptismal and other religious purposes. (They have
replaced a white mob from the northern suburbs that worshipped Satan at a
spot near the Old Parks Sports Club.)
It should have a dedicated, meandering ring road system from where the park is easily accessible from dedicated parking lots.
A public transport service consisting of hybrid low-floor buses and minibuses should also connect golf
courses and other sport clubs along the route with one another, as well
as with other parks on the Braamfontein Spruit, Sandspruit and Jukskei River tributaries, such as the:
· Johannesburg Zoo
· Johannesburg Botanical Gardens
· Delta Park bird sanctuary
· Sandton’s Field and Study Centre
· Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens (featuring its famous Black Eagle breeding pair) in Roodepoort.
· Lion’s Park
it should be the home of marathon sport events, such as the recent
Discovery 702 Walk the Talk, which draw up to 50 000 participants and
disrupt traffic along their traditional city routes.
addition, it should stay within walking distance from popular
restaurant and shopping centres such as Rosebank, Cresta, the Randburg
“waterfront” and Sandton City.
this green project should be a pilot project or Phase One of a bigger
green project which should aim to clean up the gold mines, and the
industrial and residential waste in polluted rivers that flow north and
south from the ridges of the Witwatersrand .
Braamfonteinspruit is rich in flora and teaming with bird and other
wildlife, but it is very polluted. It flows into the scenic Jukskei
River, which in turn flows into the Crocodile River (host of a monthly
arts ramble) which flows into the Hartbeespoortdam right in the middle
of the Magaliesberg.
The latter also hosts the Cradle Of Mankind World
Heritage Site, a major local and foreign tourism attraction. Four World
Cup national soccer teams not only stayed in its vicinity but also
visited restaurants along the Nelson Mandela Meander. And they loved all
may not have a sea or a mountain that have made Durban and Cape Town
major tourist attractions. But it has plenty to offer these cities
News advocates that the Gauteng Provincial Council and Greater
Johannesburg Metropolitan Council, which includes Sandton and Randburg,
should make a renewed attempt to realise what has been the dream of
thousands of citizens for several decades now. The mayors of
Johannesburg, Sandton and Randburg made one such attempt more than 30
years ago, but there was no political will and other support to carry it
Johannesburg’s acidic water table rising and Hartbeespoort Dam
suffocating in algae, we ask them to consider the potential of this
proposed project by calling for feasibility studies and delaying
decisions on other projects that could encroach on, if not destroy, the
chance of turning the Nelson Mandela Meander into a major local and
foreign attraction as well.
example, proposals to widen the narrow bridge over the
Braamfonteinspruit at the Delta bird sanctuary should not only include
an anti-noise and anti-air pollution feature, but also include
construction of a pathway or tunnel for joggers and cyclists to pass
underneath this road or bridge deck surface.
current dispute between Randburg municipality and Bordeaux ratepayers
living along the Braamfonteinspruit who want to fence themselves in to
protect themselves against criminals, vagrants and squatters, should
also be resolved bearing this proposed project in mind. For one, more
scenic hanging bridges should be built allowing so-called “unwanted”
pedestrians, who are actually domestic workers with rights of servitude,
to cross the river, which often comes down in flood.
is no doubt in our minds that any such project should be engineered
properly in consultation with ratepayers associations and dedicated sport
organisations such as Footprint and lobby groups like the Braamfontein
Spruit Trust (BST). Once approved and tenders have been called for, it
should then be marketed by a person with an excellent track record in
project management – another Jack van der Merwe (of Gautrain fame) with time and dedication on his hands (to deal with objections as well).
as a pilot project, the Nelson Mandela Meander and Freedom Park project
should aim to bring pride, joy, security and improved living conditions
to people of all races who have chosen to make this region their home
short: the people of Gauteng discovered a rough diamond in Igoli’s
dirty pot of gold several decades ago. The time has come to cut and
polish this gem, and give it the sparkling setting it deserves.