Though Johannesburg City has evolved over the years into a world-class African city, its streets are still flooded with vivid memories of a past so obscure and sad that on quiet nights you can still hear the ghosts of yesteryear howling. We took a stroll through the Joburg Madiba worked his way from being a security guard to the first black lawyer to own a law firm. Hold on for this one, it’s a bumpy ride.
Alexandra and George Goch Village
In 1941, long before Johannesburg became a hub for hipsters to hang out in on Sundays, a 23-year-old Nelson Mandela moved into a one-bedroom apartment on 7th Avenue in the heart of the Alexandra township. Fresh from Qunu, his ancestral village in the Eastern Cape, Mandela took a job at Crown Mines as a night watchman. It was at Crown Mines that he saw South African capitalism in action for the first time. From here, Madiba moved to George Goch where he stayed with his cousin Nozolile Mtirara. This move from Alex to the city played an integral part in what Nelson Mandela would become.
Chancellor House, 25 Fox Street
His cousin introduced him to the ANC activist Walter Sisulu. Sisulu got Mandela a job at a local law firm as a clerk at Witkin, Sidelsky and Eidelman, a company run by Lazar Sidelsky who mentored the young Mandela. Years later, in 1952, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo established the first black partner law firm, Mandela & Tambo. Their firm was located at Chancellor House, 25 Fox Street in Ferreirasdorp. The firm was overwhelmed with clients seeking restitution from acts of the oppressive regime at the time. The firm was closed down in 1960, as Mandela faced charges of treason and Tambo fled to the United Kingdom. Chancellor House was later gutted by fire and was deemed a “dark building” for many years before being refurbished and opened as an archive in 2011.
No. 8115, Orlando West
On the corner of Vilakazi Street and Ngakane Street, under a massive oak tree, stands the humble Soweto home of Nelson Mandela, which he moved into in 1946. After being released from prison, Madiba went straight to No. 8115, Orlando West where he felt freedom from Robben Island for the first time. Today it still bears bullet holes and Molotov cocktail scorches from attacks. In 1997, Mandela donated the house to the Nelson Mandela Trust. It has since been turned into a museum.
107 Central St, Houghton Estate
The final resting place of an international icon, great leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner can be found hidden in Houghton Estate. Known as Mandela Mansion, it was overrun with media and civilians alike when Mandela was released from hospital, months before his death. This enclave acted as an acre of rest for the late president. He enjoyed privacy here as well as many visits from international stars and politicians.
By Shawn Greyling
Do you have some interesting stuff to add to this piece about Nelson Mandela’s Joburg. Sharing is caring, so make a journo’s day and post this on social media for us.