Yesterday, we had the priviledge of going on a team “excursion” to the Constitutional Court of South Africa. My colleague’s brother has been doing a stint working for one of the judges of the court and so he invited us all to come on a tour of the building and site. Now, not being that “into” history myself, I was not really keen to go. I also didn’t see the relevance at all to the visit and what we do at work and my colleague that drove with me and I were literally complaining the entire drive there about how it’s unnecessary and how we have so much work to do and how it’s not really appropriate for the entire team to be out just for fun…but we eventually got there, and from the word go, our “guide” had me amazed and hanging onto his every word.
We all know that South Africa is diverse, a true rainbow nature but yesterday really opened my eyes to that. The tour began with a description of how the site was initially used – a “whites only” prison by the boers at the time and how, over time, an additional wing was added where “non-white” people were housed including the likes of Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela (prior to his Robben Island stint) who was the only non-white man to be housed in the “whites only” prison as the prison guards were suspicious of him planning a breakout and so moved him to the other prison as security was more controlled. Our guide then described the artwork starting from the writing on the concrete block on the outside of the building (all written by the first judges of the court, one of who was blind from 16months old and who had to be taught to write the three words just so that he could write them on concrete block), the name – Constitutional Court – in all the official South African languages, the meaning of the shadows of people built into the stones on the ground, the windows being full length where you can see into the court from outside and vice versa representing the transparency of our legal system, the life sized sculpture outside which initially looks like it depicts slavery but in fact shows how people laid their lives on the line to help people smaller than them (a true representation of the “greats” of our country who were ousted from their communities and who laid their lives on the line to stand up for what they believed in), the ladder showing different rungs from chains and metal at the bottom representing slavery and imprisonment to wood with an infinity sign at the top showing our journey to “freedom” which we are still constantly striving for…the artwork is absolutely magnificent and the meaning and thought behind it pulled at the strings of my heart.
To think that, even before my parents were born, people ran the risk of being killed just because they wanted to stand up for what they believed in, help the minorities and make our country a better one! One striking quote taken from Nelson Mandela’s statement from the dock which is displayed in the Constitutional Court at a the Rivonia Trial display is as follows…
…”It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realised. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Apparently, he added in the part “if needs be” only at the insistence of his lawyer – that’s how passionate he was about his beliefs…he was even prepared to die. They were on trial to be sentenced to death and fortunately, they were given life in prison and not the death sentence.
Yes, we had great people fight for our country to bring it to where it is today. People who made history, people who gave us freedom of speech, democracy, the constitution as it is, all of which make our country what it is today. And yes, we probably have years and years to come and lots and lots of work but look how far we’ve come already. Ah, lovely South Africa!!
* Add a visit to the Constitutional Court to your “bucket list” – trust me, you won’t regret it!!!!!