In acknowledgment of Youth Day, June 16, Visit Stellenbosch and Dwarsrivier Tourism hosted a Social Justice Walk. The walk was a 16km route of ‘hope and healing’ from the historic 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. The walk forms one of the early legs of South Africa’s 500km ‘Pilgrimage of Hope’.
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.
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.
Jeanneret Momberg, CEO of Visit Stellenbosch, said: “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.”
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 route.
“I am overjoyed to participate in the Social Justice Walk organised by Dwarsrivier Tourism and Visit Stellenbosch. 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,” said Professor Madonsela.
She also said that the diversity of age, background and ethnicity of the group made her heart swell with joy and that initiatives such as these were “not just about healing the injustices of the past but rallying to working towards the prosperous society we can be”.
“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,” said Winde.
“It was very moving for me,” said the Municipal Manager of Stellenbosch, Geraldine Mettler, 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.”
The Journey of Hope and Healing will be available to local residents and visitors to Stellenbosch as a packaged tourism walk in the future.