Nobel Peace Laureate and Former President, FW de Klerk, left his mark in the shape of an imprinted footprint at Maropeng on 29 July as part of a ceremony to honour the common ancestry of all people alive today.
The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (COH WHS), has collected footprints of Nobel Prize Laureates and Heads of State since 2002, when Thabo Mbeki and Kofi Annan initiated this tradition. South African President Jacob Zuma and Václav Klaus, the former President of the Czech Republic (2003-2013) have also donated their footprints as well as Sidney Brenner, Peter Agre and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The handprint of Nelson Mandela also forms part of this impressive collection. Maropeng, the official visitors center for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site has been home to these footprints since its opening in 2005.
At the ceremony Mr. de Klerk said he was still a ‘West-Rander’ at heart, having been brought up in Krugersdorp, and added on a light note how he recalled vividly coming to the Sterkfontein Caves with his brother and friends over 65 years ago.
“This footprint is a step on a journey towards a better life for all. We should continue to strive for a situation when all South Africans are totally fulfilled and completely educated,” he said.
Professor Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand thanked Mr de Klerk for contributing his footprint to this esteemed collection. Berger added that the two and a half decades he had spent in the COH WHS had been a life changing experience.
As far as leaving his footprint at Maropeng is concerned, Mr de Klerk said it was a fabulous honour. “The journey which we take is never-ending. I was fated to take the huge step of ending apartheid. It was a step which I took knowingly, willingly and proudly. Today, I am taking a step further than this… I am doing this not to be presumptuous, but in all humility, as a member of the most extraordinary species – the human being. I am taking this step as a commitment to a united and prosperous future for South Africa, and for all Africans, and for every person on this planet.”
Maropeng which means ‘returning to the place of origin’ in Setswana, the main indigenous language is a World Heritage site. It is an easy drive of about an hour from Johannesburg or Pretoria, telling the story of the place in which our ancestors have lived for more than three-million years.
Maropeng comprises a four-star boutique hotel, conference facilities, an extensive underground visitor centre depicting the path of humankind from its origins to modern Homo sapiens as well as a variety of restaurants. Besides its three contemporary conference rooms, ideal for smaller niche corporate groups, it also has the capacity to house larger groups of up to 320 delegates.
The Centre was created through a public-private partnership between the Gauteng Provincial Government, the University of the Witwatersrand and private businesses. Treasures from the collections of the Evolutionary Sciences Insitute (University of the Witwatersrand) and other institutions are often on display at the visitor centre exhibition and highlight the special relationship between Maropeng and Wits University.
“We were delighted to welcome Mr de Klerk to Maropeng, and to in fact welcome him home,” says Lindsay Marshall, marketing manager for Maropeng. “We feel honoured to have hosted many influential people over the years who have recognised the importance of the area and what it means for humanity, and left their mark. We invite all South Africans to visit Maropeng to not only view these footprints but experience the birthplace of humanity and remember that we all have a common ancestry,” she concludes.