Freedom Park came into being after the former President Nelson Mandela announced in Parliament 1999: “ … the day should not be for off when we shall have a people’s shrine, a Freedom Park, where we shall honour with all the dignity they deserve, those who endured pain so we can experience the joy of freedom”. Freedom Park was also established in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the nation to create a monument and memorial that celebrates those who sacrificed their lives for a free and democratic South Africa.
Freedom Park is a 52-hectar site located on Salvokop, situated to the south of the Pretoria CBD, between the M1 and Nelson Mandela Drive – a major gateway to the city from the South. In full view of the Union Buildings and in close proximity to University of South Africa (UNISA) and the Voortrekker Monument, Freedom Park is emerging as a major landmark reshaping and enhancing the skyline of our capital city. It is a people’s shrine that weaves the story of where we come from and the events that shaped what South Africa is today. It reminds us that we cannot afford to be indifferent to our past in our building of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic nation.
The Park is a beacon, a reflection of the sacrificial achievements that is South Africa. It is a call to marvel at the phenomenon of a country on the brink of civil war that chose a road of negotiation instead of pitting brother against brother. At Freedom Park, our history - the tragedy, sorrow and loss but also the extraordinary triumph of the human spirit – is depicted in a physical space.
It has several elements and these include the Garden of Remembrance, Wall of Names and //hapo (museum) and Pan African Archives. The Freedom Park Pan African Archives (PAA) seeks to identify, collect and preserve original and unique records and objects that document the history of the struggle for freedom and humanity. PAA is the embodiment of the essence of the Freedom Park because it houses documents and objects on the history of Freedom Park as well as some liberation struggle archives. PAA collects the archives by way of donations/bequest, transfer/exchange and dialogues.
Dialogues or interviews (oral history) are conducted in order to capture the knowledge in the memories of the participants in the struggle for freedom and humanity which knowledge would otherwise be lost. The position articulated here is that memories should be captured, recorded and treated as documents like any written record. All the oral and written documents are seen to have equal standing and that all historical tools of analysis need to be applied to all categories of documents in the reconstruction of historical narratives. Access to this knowledge is then made possible to researchers and the public.