Mandela house now a museum
The matchbox home of former president Nelson Mandela in Soweto has been given a facelift.
Restored at a cost of R9million, the Mandela House was reopened to the public last week. The project included the construction of a new visitor centre and the installation of an exhibition featuring its famous former occupants.
Situated at 8115 Orlando West, corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane streets, it was built in 1945, part of a Johannesburg council tender for new houses in the township.
Nelson Mandela moved into it in 1946 with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase. They divorced in 1957, and from 1958 he was joined there by his second wife, Nomzamo Winifred (Winnie) Madikizela.
Mandela was to spend little time there in the ensuing years as his role in struggle activities became all-consuming and in 1961 he went underground - until his arrest and imprisonment in 1962.
Mandela returned for a brief time after his release from Robben Island in 1990, before moving to his present house in Houghton.
Madikizela-Mandela, herself imprisoned several times, lived in the house with their daughters while Nelson Mandela was in jail, until her banishment to Brandfort in Free State in 1977, where she remained under house arrest until 1986. The family continued to occupy the house until 1996, when the Mandelas divorced.
The house was subsequently turned into a museum, attracting international visitors.
It was identical to hundreds of others built on tiny plots. It had the same standard tin roof, the same cement floor, a narrow kitchen, and a bucket toilet at the back. Paraffin lamps were used as the houses were without electricity.
The bedroom was so small that a double bed took up almost the entire floor space.
The duration of a paid tour at Mandela House is about 30 minutes.