In acknowledgement of Youth Day, 16 June 2021, Visit Stellenbosch and Dwarsrivier Tourism hosted a Social Justice Walk, a 16 km route of ‘hope and healing’ from the historical centre of Stellenbosch to the beautiful Dwarsrivier Valley, an outlying area of Stellenbosch and home to communities of former freed slaves.
This inaugural event aimed to embrace social justice against the backdrop of South Africa’s troubled history.
Said Jeanneret Momberg, CEO of Visit Stellenbosch: “Although the Dwarsrivier Social Justice walk is all about the acknowledgement of past injustices, it is also about hope and inspiration as we commit ourselves to create an environment in which all the communities in Stellenbosch can enjoy the immense benefits of our region’s tourism potential.”
The Social Justice Walk highlighted the breath-taking outdoor tourist assets of the Dwarsrivier Valley as well as the area’s rich cultural heritage.
Professor Thuli Madonsela, Social Justice Chair at Stellenbosch University and Alan Winde, Premier of the Western Cape, joined the region’s key tourism stakeholders in walking the beautiful 16 km route.
“I am overjoyed to participate in the Social Justice Walk organised by Dwarsrivier Tourism and Visit Stellenbosch,” said Professor Thuli Madonsela. “The walk from Stellenbosch to Pniël, a former freed slave settlement, has the potential not only to ignite interest in and commitment towards social justice but also to act as an important building block on the journey of healing the divisions of the past as envisaged in our Constitution.”
“The walk is timely in that the COVID-19 calamity we face globally, has taught us we can no longer succeed as communities and a global village if we leave some of our people behind,” adds Madonsela.
Madonsela said that the diversity of age, background and ethnicity of the group made her heart swell with joy and that initiatives such as these are “not just about healing the injustices of the past, but rallying to working towards the prosperous society we can be.”
Premier Alan Winde said: “It was a great privilege to join the esteemed Professor Thuli Madonsela on a social justice walk, hosted by Dwarsrivier Tourism and Visit Stellenbosch on Youth Day. While walking the ‘Journey of Hope and Healing,’ I was reminded of the great lengths we have undertaken as a nation to address the injustices of the past, particularly as they impacted on young people. I was also reminded of the immense opportunity that still exists in our country and the role that we must all play to make this a fairer and more equal society.”
The Social Justice Walk forms one of the early legs of the 500 km Pilgrimage of Hope route, a collaborative partner for this initiative.
At the Lückhoff School, the group took a moment to reflect on the forced removals of the residents of Die Vlakte in the 1960s during the Apartheid regime. On the journey several places of significance were passed, including the Braak, the old Drostdy, the first Government Slave School, the Ou Hoofgebou and Ida’s Valley. The route started at the Rhenish Missionary Church, travelled via the old Helshoogte Pass and ended at the Pniël Congregational Church.
The charming town of Pniël, lying at the foot of the Simonsberg, is characterised by its gardens, fruit orchards and vineyards. A philanthropic organisation purchased land and founded a mission station here to house the emancipated but homeless slaves from 1834.
Municipal Manager of Stellenbosch, Geraldine Mettler, said the event was indeed a walk of “hope and healing.”
“It was very moving for me,” she said, citing the many people she had “courageous conversations” with on the walk as a real highlight. “It’s about bridging the divide between the officials on one side and the community on the other side. I see this as a beacon of hope, a process we have to go through.”
Each participant received a stone and piece of spekboom to carry with them on their journey – the stone to remember the past injustices people have suffered and the spekboom, a symbol of hope and inspiration. Guests were encouraged to leave the stone in remembrance at a special spot of their choosing on the route. Mettler handed a basket of spekboom, carried by the guests on the walk, to Janine Myburgh, Chairperson of the Pniël Heritage and Culture Trust, as an emblematic gesture during the closing ceremony at the Pniël Congregational Church.
Dr Elna von Schlicht, Executive Mayor of the Cape Winelands District Municipality, the main sponsor of the event said, “The CWDM is excited, in our capacity as Regional Tourism Office and from the perspective of our mandate to find opportunities which stimulate local economic development, to be part of this event. During this walk our wonderful mountains, unique surroundings and rich culture are truly showcased in the best of ways. The route followed unlocks the diversity of heritage that is to be found not only in this valley, but throughout the Cape Winelands District. The potential for economic development of this project and the possibility that the results can improve the quality of lives of our citizens, makes it exactly the kind of initiative that the CWDM loves to support.”
Mike Ratcliffe, Chairman of Visit Stellenbosch and Stellenbosch Wine Routes, said that Visit Stellenbosch, founded just two years ago, was born out of a need for representation with socio-economic development as its primary objective. “We want to work together with all our communities to ensure their stories are told and economic opportunities are unlocked.”
The Journey of Hope and Healing will be available to local residents and visitors to Stellenbosch as a packaged tourism walk in the future. “The objective will not only be to unlock the economic opportunities for the community, but also to expose our fellow South Africans to learn more about our history, acknowledge our past and contribute towards a thriving future,” concludes Momberg.