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Faces of Africa 07/09/2012 Finding Mandela (Part 2)

07-09-2012 03:22 BJT

We’re in South Africa, where we’ve gone in search of a man who helped to shape a nation.We have journeyed to Cape Town, taken a boat to the infamous Robben Island and visited Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.

Robben Island guide:
“We always called him the Old Man but he didn’t like that. He liked to be called Madiba”

We’ve heard of a man of deep commitment, principles and compassion, a leader prepared to weigh in and get his hands dirty… And, if necessary, to die for his cause.

The man: Nelson Mandela.

George Bizos, Nelson Mandela’s Lawyer:
He stood out. He was taller, better dressed, smiling. He was THE personality of the leadership of the African National Congress.

The man – Nelson Mandela
Mandela’s release from prison, on February the 11th, 1990, was celebrated by millions across the country.

Nelson Mandela (centre) and the leadership of the ANC Party, supported by tripartite
alliance with members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).


The atmosphere was one of jubilation. Mandela himself, with his wife Winnie at his side, appeared jubilant, upbeat and happy.

There was little doubt he and his African National Congress, or ANC would win democratic elections IF they were to be held.

But THAT was far from assured.
The South Africa that Mandela returned to was very different to what he had left when he was sent to Robben Island in 1964.

The townships of the 1950’s and 60’s had been full of the energy and hopes of an emerging black middle class.

But the repressive acts of the Apartheid government during the 1970’s and 80’s destroyed that energy, those hopes and any chance of the emergence of a black middle class.

In 1976 the township youth rebelled against inferior Bantu Education - and any form of authority.

By the time Mandela was released, the townships were places of fear, of widespread violence, intimidation. An entire generation had sacrificed their education - and with it, any chance of employment.

Now Mandela was determined to build a solid future, one based on guaranteed rights and freedom for all South Africans.

George Bizos, Nelson Mandela’s Lawyer:
One of the first things that he did when he was released from jail was to visit the committee of 12 – I was one of them – that had been writing the bill of rights and the constitution.

George Bizos, Nelson Mandela’s Lawyer:
 “He said that we must draw a good constitution, a constitution that would not only be good for the ANC but for the country as a whole.”
The guarantees of a solid constitution would also help ease the fears of white South Africans, making it easier to negotiate the exit of the Apartheid government.

George Bizos, Nelson Mandela’s lawyer:
He knew that the new country could not be a success unless its government was trusted by the people, particularly by those that had exercised power for 350 years and to a lesser extent, the Zulus. And he tried to accommodate them.
Mandela and the ANC had been preparing for this moment for decades.

Arthur Chaskalson, Rivonia Defence Team lawyer:
What’s so striking about it is that when he came out of jail some 27, 28 years later he immediately gave effect to what he had said at the time of his trial.

After his release, Mandela and South Africa’s black majority anticipated a democratic election.


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