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.

Themba Hadebe/Reuters
Nelson Mandela at his home in Qunu, South Africa.

• 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.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Mandela's fame draws tourists to an otherwise unremarkable village
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today