Nelson Mandela: Freedom for All
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In , when news broke that Mandela would be released, I went I straight to Trafalgar Square in London to celebrate, and the following day I stayed glued to the TV screen for the first glimpse of him. Today, his face is one of the most recognisable in the world but back then, it had been 24 years since the last photograph of Mandela had been published.
Nelson Mandela Foundation
I did not see him again for almost a year. It was nine days before the election and, although the ANC knew the Western Cape was not a winnable—in the end it lost to the National Party by almost 40 percent—it was decided Mandela should come to Cape Town for some final meetings and a rally. I was responsible for arranging the media, first at a photo-call with schoolchildren in Green Point Stadium, then at a political meeting at Grassy Park and finally at a stadium event in Athlone.
Arriving at Greenpoint Stadium on that sunny morning, I was there to meet him and his team. But a day that had started brightly ended in tragedy when a stampede in Athlone Stadium resulted in the deaths of three people and more than a dozen injuries. As news of the calamity filtered out, one of my seniors was concerned about how it might play out in the media. His only thoughts were with those killed and their families.
He immediately changed his evening plans in order to visit the injured in hospital. He had no need for spin doctors to instruct him as to what would appear to be the right thing to do. He knew it instinctively. After polls had closed on election day Mandela was in reflective mood. So much to do. Their dreams have become reality.
Freedom is their reward. Through his integrity, courage and strength he showed by example what a single individual can achieve, and in so doing he instilled the belief that injustice, whether large or small, can be defeated. Over the next two decades, I saw Mandela from afar several times. Aged 91, he was too frail to come to the commemoration outside the gates of Victor Verster Prison, but he did make a brief appearance in parliament. Speaking that day outside the prison gates, Cyril Ramaphosa, then deputy president, told a small crowd that "as Mandela walked through these gates we were also being set free.
Mandela’s Fight for Freedom in South Africa
But the significance of his release was felt far beyond South Africa's borders. In a world that was only just emerging from the shadow of the Cold War and undergoing a rapid and uncertain period of transformation, Mandela's release gave a renewed sense of hope and optimism. As the writer Breyten Breytenbach wrote at the time: "Perhaps there is now a little more sense to our dark passage on Earth.
I felt an immense void—both personally and for the world. The brave experience death only once. Of all the strange things I've ever heard, it seems most strange to me that men fear death, given that death, which can't be avoided, will come whenever it wants. This piece first appeared in Newsweek here. Your choice regarding cookies on this site We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can use this tool to change your cookie settings.
Nelson Mandela: His Written Legacy
Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. Nelson Mandela in his confinement cell where he had been incarcerated for 27 years for his views in opposition to the apartheid regime. Mandela and his ANC conspirators were sentenced to life in prison. He would serve 27 torturous years, mostly within the walls of the notorious Robben Island prison. He described the inedible food, inhumane living conditions and debasing mistreatment in Long Walk to Freedom.
In general, Coloureds and Indians received a slightly better diet than Africans, but it was not much of a distinction. The authorities liked to say that we received a balanced diet; it was indeed balanced—between the unpalatable and the inedible. Val in! Fall in! Each prisoner was required to have the three buttons of his khaki jacket properly buttoned. We were required to doff our hats as the warder walked by. If our buttons were undone, our hats unremoved or our cells untidy, we were charged with a violation of the prison code and punished with either solitary confinement or the loss of meals.
After inspection we would work in the courtyard hammering stones until noon. There were no breaks; if we slowed down, the warders would yell at us to speed up.
Long Walk to Freedom - Wikipedia
At noon, the bell would clang for lunch and another metal drum of food would be wheeled into the courtyard. For Africans, lunch consisted of boiled mealies, that is, coarse kernels of corn. The Indian and Coloured prisoners received samp, or mealie rice, which consisted of ground mealies in a souplike mixture. The samp was sometimes served with vegetables whereas our mealies were served straight. Painfully separated from his wife and children, Mandela wrote them letters, trying to keep his family relationships from dimming.
To me the portrait aroused mixed feelings. I suspect you intended the picture to convey a special message that no words could ever express. Rest assured I have caught it. Remember that hope is a powerful weapon even when all else is lost… You are in my thoughts every moment of my life. I have been fairly successful in putting on a mask behind which I have pined for the family, alone, never rushing for the post when it comes until somebody calls out my name.
I also never linger after visits although sometimes the urge to do so becomes quite terrible. I am struggling to suppress my emotions as I write this letter. Mandela was unable to raise his children, but he tried to weigh in on their lives with guidance from his prison cell.
In a letter dated November 26, , Mandela advised his daughter Makaziwe on her personal life and professional ambitions.
Who Was Nelson Mandela?
I would like to tell you again that I am very sorry to learn of the breakdown of your marriage and the rough experiences you have had. Such a turn is always disastrous to a woman. I must remind you, darling, that members of the family and close friends had a high opinion of you as a girl. They were full of hopes for your conduct inside and outside school, for your serious-mindedness and your natural intelligence.
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I once hoped that the profession of your choice would match you in these qualities and I urge you to develop them. Divorce may destroy a woman, but strong characters have not only survived but have gone further and distinguished themselves in life. I want to think that you are such a strong person, that far from discouraging you, this experience will make you richer.
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This is the challenge, darling, please take it. We love and trust you and are confident that a wonderful future awaits you.
When the ANC was finally unbanned in , Mandela was released from prison and immediately entered talks to end apartheid and minority-white rule in South Africa. The value of our shared reward will and must be measured by the joyful peace which will triumph, because the common humanity that bonds both black and white into one human race, will have said to each one of us that we shall all live like the children of paradise.
Thus shall we live, because we will have created a society which recognises that all people are born equal, with each entitled in equal measure to life, liberty, prosperity, human rights and good governance…. Let it never be said by future generations that indifference, cynicism or selfishness made us fail to live up to the ideals of humanism which the Nobel Peace Prize encapsulates.
Let the strivings of us all prove Martin Luther King Jr. Let the efforts of us all, prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.
He further reflected on the fall of apartheid and his faith in humanity in Long Walk to Freedom. I never lost hope that this great transformation would occur. Not only because of the great heroes I have already cited, but because of the courage of the ordinary men and women of my country. I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Nelson Mandela greeting young supporters prior to an election rally.
The election was the first democratic and multiracial general elections in the country.