When South Africa’s great cities are counted, the city of Mthatha might not be mentioned at the same breath as that of Cape Town, Durban or Johannesburg. Most probably, it will also feature at the bottom of many people's list who will be visiting South Africa, simply because very little is ever written about it. However, Mthatha carries a lot of significance in the history of South Africa. It is here that one of South Africa’s most adored son, Nelson Mandela was born in the small village of Qunu – situated about 15 minutes from the city centre.
For the Qunu residence, the closest 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Host City is the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium – which is about a 400km drive – a venue aptly named after the iconic Madiba. However, on Friday, they came in numbers to herald the arrival of the FIFA World Cup Trophy when the Coca-Cola Trophy Tour made it’s a stop in Madiba’s birthplace.
To the world Mandela is the symbol of peace, a philanthropist and a man who had devoted his life to the emancipation of his people, but to the people of Qunu, he is the “son of the soil” and by far the most famous citizen to come out of this small village.
While the ageing former South African president was not there in person to welcome the Trophy in his hometown, his grandson, Nkosi (Chief) Mandla Mandela led a contingent of local chiefs and royal females who came to be part of the festivities in Mthatha.
Chief Mandela said: “Firstly, I would like to thank Coca-Cola for making this this happen for the people of Mthatha. We feel very privileged today as a community that we can have this symbol in our midst. I recall the time when my grandfather went to Zurich for the announcement of the country that will host the 2010 FIFA World Cup – the joy and the excitement that filled the entire nation that day. That is the same excitement and joy that we, the people of Mthatha have today."
“It’s unbelievable, I can’t contain my emotions,” raved Mthatha resident, Nomafa Vutha minutes after taking a picture with the Trophy. “This is a great moment for me and now I can feel the World Cup atmosphere. In most cases, we have been forgotten here. We have seen all these events taking place in Johannesburg and other big cities. However, after taking a picture with this trophy, I now feel part of the World Cup,” Vutha added.
Thousands queued outside the Walter Sisulu University Stadium a few hours before doors could open to take a picture with the Trophy. For most, this was a priceless opportunity to stand within a flirting distance to football's crowning glory.
Eastern Cape 2010 FIFA World Cup strategic manger, Gogo Manqoyi said the area's rich history needs to be explored by visitors during the FIFA World Cup. “We are excited to be in Mthatha because this place is very important in the history of this country. I encourage fans, who will be driving from Durban to Nelson Mandela Bay to make a stop in Qunu, the home of the great man, Madiba and take a picture of where he grew up. We can even arrange for our foreign visitors see his home, but that has to be co-ordinated,” Manqoyi said.
Mthatha is part of the N2 from Durban to Nelson Mandela Bay/ Port Elizabeth. You can travel along the much-sought after Wild Coast that includes some of the most magnificent places in the country.