Mandela's fame draws tourists to an otherwise unremarkable village

The South African village of Qunu has a small tourism industry that rides off the fame of a past resident – former president Nelson Mandela, who was raised there.

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    Nelson Mandela at his home in Qunu, South Africa.
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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

The village of Qunu wouldn’t normally spring to mind when choosing a holiday destination in South Africa.

Located south of Mthatha in the country’s poorest province of the Eastern Cape, it’s an unremarkable place except for one exceptional resident – Nelson Mandela.

The former president, who grew up in the village and still has a house there, is helping to fuel a mini tourist boom among visitors keen to learn more about him and the place where he lived as a child.

Nokuzola Tetani, marketing director of the Nelson Mandela Museum, says 10,000 tourists visited the village last year, of which a third were foreigners, mostly from Britain, Germany, and the United States.

Next to the museum are self-catering apartments and chalets that can sleep 75 people.

The former president was born in nearby Mvezo but later moved to Qunu, where he spends considerable time.

“We offer a hike through the village, following his footprints to all sites of historical significance,” says Ms. Tetani. “We walk on vast, open lands to the 100-year-old stone church where he was christened; the Mandela family graveyard where Mandela’s parents and children are buried; the ruins of the primary school where he was named Nelson on his first day of school; and open spaces where he knocked birds from the sky with a sling whilst looking after his father’s cattle.”

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