Mobile app puts a guide to Madiba's South Africa in your pocket

The Madiba’s Journey mobile phone app will allow tourists to experience the soul of South Africa in addition to its great physical beauty, and the ‘many, many, many different tourism experiences’ the country offers.

This was the message from Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, who this morning introduced the mobile app to the world at Liliesleaf Farm in the Johannesburg suburb of Rivonia, an ANC safe house until the arrest of several cadres there in 1963, leading to the famous Rivonia Trial in which the late President Nelson Mandela who had already been jailed in 1962 was sentenced to life imprisonment.

‘The app,’ Hanekom said, “invites the world not only to come and visit South Africa. It also invites people to come and share our heritage, and the great South African story, with us. This sharing is through the provision of meaningful information: information that will help people understand the soul of South Africa, the priceless value of our freedom; and the fascinating human story of that freedom, both from a historic point of view, right up to the present day.”

The app has been developed by South African Tourism in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, whose chief executive officer, Sello Hatang, said it brought to light a man to whom the world looked up as a global icon of forgiveness, reconciliation and constructive action for positive and peaceful change.

“It’s a tribute to South Africa’s heritage, pride and passion for the democracy and freedom that was so hard won, and is so joyously celebrated,” he said. “It makes it easy for us to share this unique South African story with the world, and to invite people to come on this pilgrimage to South Africa. It keeps Mr Mandela’s spirit alive, and keeps him with us through the places that shaped him and where he had a profound influence not only on South African history, but on world consciousness, too.”

Hanekom encouraged people to download the app, and use it to discover facets of South Africa that would amaze and inspire them. He encouraged the travel trade to package Nelson Mandela experiences of South Africa, to make the heart and the soul of the nation accessible to the world and people who travel in it.

The app gives users Nelson Mandela’s South Africa in their pocket, featuring each of the places on the now-famous Nelson Mandela’s Journey map that was launched in 2014. In addition, the app offers tour-guide information on each on the attractions on the route, helps users plan an itinerary, gives fascinating facts and historic details on each attraction, and gives distances and the time needed to travel between each attraction. It also offers a reward system, giving users rewards each time they check in at one of the attractions or post a photograph to social media platforms of one of the places on the Nelson Mandela’s Journey route.

The Madiba’s Journey app is available for free download now on Android and Apple.

Exciting South African Cultural Experiences

As South Africans we treasure our diverse cultural heritage and we're only too happy to share it with our visitors.

South Africa's rich history dates back to some of the earliest human settlements in the world. Over 300 museums reflect this heritage in a range of places, from 18th century homes to mountain caves, from rural cultural villages to state of the art urban facilities.

It is said and agreed that with all the experience you get when enjoying the adventurous views and destinations in the country, but nothing beats actually meeting people. South Africa's many cultural villages offer a close-up insight into the country's traditional cultures.

In the major centres, township tours - conducted with sensitivity and pride will put you in touch with real South Africans and their history. That’s the only way you will feel you are way out of your home land, take a good visit to a township (We call this a Kasi) or go to a village, former president Nelson Mandela and the current president of the country Jacob Zuma are both from a village. What’s even more exciting about this country is the fact that there are over 55 million people speaking 11 different languages. Take Soweto for an example, one of the biggest townships in the country, the only Kasi to have houses of two noble prize winners Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu in the same street (Vilakazi Street).

Remember, no matter where you're from, this is where your roots are. It's pretty much accepted that human life started in Africa. Most people look at the world differently after a tour of the Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg, one of the richest hominid fossil sites in the world.In the rural areas, community tours will help you get to know the country through the eyes of those who live here. You can discover ancient Setswana astronomy through the lens of a grandmother with an intimate knowledge of the ancient traditions. South Africa has so many villages in each of the nine provinces, and each province is dominated by a certain tribe of people who speak a certain language and practice a certain culture. Let’s take Nkandla for an example, the home of the current president of the country, the village is situated in KwaZulu-Natal, a province which is dominated by the Zulu speaking people; and we can take Qunu, another South African Village and a home to former president and world’s icon Nelson Mandela, this village is found in the Eastern Cape, a province dominated by Xhosa speaking people and people who practice the Xhosa cultural activities.

Fossilised footprints near Cape Town, and the wealth of rock paintings and surviving shelters in KwaZulu-Natal's Drakensberg mountains and elsewhere in the country, all testify to humanity's origins on this ancient continent.

More recently, South Africa's history has been one of conflict and confrontation, but also of reconciliation and restitution. You can explore the battlegrounds where the bloody events that shaped the country took place. From Isandlwana or Talana in KwaZulu-Natal to Soweto in Johannesburg or Langa in Cape Town, our land tells a story, but one that can be difficult to interpret, so it's worth doing a guided tour.

We are not afraid to show the wounds of our past, visit the Women's Monument in Bloemfontein, or the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. We also take you on a trip to Robben Island to have a look at the isolation and despair that’s turned it into a symbol of forgiveness and hope. That's what South Africans are doing with the whole country.

South African Painting Used as Noticeboard in London

One of the most valuable paintings ‘Arab in Black’ by Irma Stern, a South African Painter was recently discovered in a London flat, where it was being used as a kitchen noticeboard, covered in bills and letters.

British newspaper The Guardian reported on 21st July 2015; "An art expert spotted a painting valued at up to £1-million (over R19-million), which was once sold to help fund Nelson Mandela's legal defence, being used as a noticeboard in a London flat,"

The painting was donated to a charity auction in the 1950s to raise money for the defence on the trial of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and others were re-arrested and given life sentences for treason. The donation was made by Betty Suzman, the sister-in-law of the anti-apartheid activist and politician Janet Suzman. It was the first big treason trial, and the activists faced the death penalty. In 1961, the case was dismissed after the trial had dragged on for five years, but three years later Mandela, Sisulu and other comrades were re-arrested and some like Mandela were sentenced to life in prison.

The painting was spotted by a specialist in South African art at Bonhams auction house during a valuation visit to the flat. "I spotted this masterpiece hanging in the kitchen covered in letters, postcards and bills," said Hannah O'Leary. "It was a hugely exciting find, even before I learned of its political significance." She added.

The Guardian reported that the heavy, ornate frame was itself rare and valuable, made from the timbers of elaborately carved antique door cases from Zanzibar, which are now barred from export. Stern spent several periods working in Zanzibar in the 1930s and 40s, and used the frames for what she considered her best works.

The artist who made this painting Irma Stern was born in 1894 in Schweizer-Reneke in what was then Transvaal, to German Jewish immigrant parents. She studied in Weimar and Berlin and had her inaugural exhibition in Berlin in 1919. She died in Cape Town in 1966, where her house in the suburb of Rosebank is now the Irma Stern Museum.

In her life span she travelled extensively in Europe and explored southern Africa, Zanzibar and the Congo. "These trips provided a wide range of subject matter for her paintings and gave her opportunities to acquire and assemble an eclectic collection of artefacts for her home," says the museum.

Stern is generally regarded as one of South Africa's leading artists whose paintings have been increasing in value over time. A similar painting of a Zanzibar subject and also framed in the antique timber, was sold for £3.1-million (R43.2 Million) at Bonhams in 2011, setting a world record. Arab in Black was painted in 1939. It portrays an Arab man from the island of Zanzibar.

The discovered painting ‘Arab in Black'  will be sold at Bonham's auction of South African art in London on 9 September 2015.



The New South African Visa Regulation - 2015

More than 9 million tourists visit South Africa each year; this is a well big stake of the country’s economy. The government is targeting annual income of R500bn from tourism by 2020 and 225 000 new jobs as it seeks to cut a 24% unemployment rate.

Recently the South African ministry of home affairs amended immigration regulations concerning travelling with children amid concern about the growing issue of child trafficking in the country and in the world. According to this regulation from July 2015 parents will have to provide an unabridged birth certificate of all travelling children. In addition to this, South Africans and foreigners will have to provide details of the child's father and mother. This will apply even when both parents are travelling with their children. Furthermore the rules include that visitors must apply in person at a visitor centre for the documents, which need to be in English.

When children are travelling without the presence of their parents, a legitimate guardian is to be present. Guardians are therefore required to produce affidavits from parents proving permission for the children to travel. Unabridged birth certificate applications can take up to eight weeks to complete. The seriousness of the law is in such that airlines will be forced to refuse travel to families not in possession of these documents.

This regulation is meant to promote safety of minors visiting South Africa, but it might have a negative effect on the tourism of the country. Already it has created a debate, and so many people have different views about it.

The head of two of the world’s biggest travel and tour operator groupings on slammed South Africa’s new visa regulations as a measure to scare off all families from travelling to South Africa. This comes as more concern was voiced at the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting about the impact and effectiveness of new South African visa regulations, especially the requirement for unabridged birth certificates for minors travelling to the country.

New visa requirements will have a "devastating impact" on South Africa's booming tourism, A South African biggest oppositions to the ruling party African National Congress, the Democratic Alliance (DA) warned. “The new immigration regulations are tying up our tourism industry in unnecessary red tape, and placing an unnecessary burden on the growth of this job-creating sector," Democratic Alliance MP James Vos said in a statement. "Visitors are now required to apply for their visas in person, which is an additional and unnecessary travel expense for those who do not live near South African embassies, consulates, and visa centres, or, worse, live in countries without these facilities," he said.

Chris Zweigenthal, CEO of the Airline Association of Southern Africa (AASA), said the biggest issue impacting SA’s aviation environment is the slower economic growth. Accordingly, there is not the level of growth expected in the aviation industry. Zweigenthal sees a negative impact especially in travel from India and China where prospective visitors to SA have to travel far for a biometric application.

Christian Klick, vice president at the corporate office of the Star Alliance, of which SAA is a member, told Fin24 that any complication in the travelling process has a direct impact on the decisions customers make regarding which airline they choose and which country they decide to visit.

Lars Thykier, president of the European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Association and managing director of the Association of Danish Travel Agents and Tour Operators, has been active in discussions about the unabridged birth certificate requirement since the issue was brought to the table in early summer 2014. "I basically see the introduction of the unabridged birth certificate rules as a means to scare off all families from travelling to South Africa, families that would otherwise want to travel there for tourism purposes. Was that the intent?" he asked. He added by saying that South Africa should realise that there are alternative interesting travel destinations and that he is more than willing to assist the South African government in getting their priorities straight.