Nelson Mandela – a celebration of an icon’s life

Marking 27 years since Mandela’s release

Saturday 11 February 2017 13:53


Fists raised in triumph: Nelson Mandela with his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Fists raised in triumph: Nelson Mandela with his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

This week marks an important moment in the history of South Africa.

Twenty-seven-years ago, the world watched as late former president, Nelson Mandela, was released from prison on 11 February 1990; 27 and a half years after he was arrested on 5 August 1962.

A towering figure, his fist in the air, Mandela emerged from the gates of Victor Verster Prison in Cape Town, signifying the end of an era and the beginning of another.

The first sight, of him followed by his address at Cape Town City Hall, served as a moment South Africa stood together in hope.  

Although the huge crowds gathered at the Cape Town Grand Parade led to delays in him appearing on the balcony, the people waited patiently to hear Mandela speak.

His historic address from the balcony of the City Hall gave the world a glimpse into the values and character of a leader that would guide South Africa into a  new chapter of history.

His long-time friend and comrade, Walter Sisulu, presented Mandela to the impatient crowds, after which Madiba delivered what would be his first speech as a free man.

A scheduled media conference had to be postponed due to delays at City Hall.

The following day, Nelson Mandela’s first words to the media were those of gratitude.

Sitting alongside his wife, Winnie Mandela and Sisulu he faced dozens of journalists on Monday 12 February at Bishopscourt, the official home of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, where he spent his first night of freedom.

Thanks to a donation of audio archival material from South African journalist Paddi Clay, the Nelson Mandela Foundation now has a recording of the entire press conference.

The first question came from a television journalist from ITN in London.

Mandela was asked how he felt “as a free man”.

His response was yet another demonstration of his humility and respect.

Listen to Mandela’s response on the audio below provided by South African Journalist, Paddi Clay:
The following day, February 13, Madiba arrived at Orlando Stadium, Soweto, to address thousands eager to hear him speak.

The spirit of suspense and exhilaration was all over the stadium as Mandela and the ANC leaders walked back into Soweto, a place he had been kept from for almost three decades.

On this day he was reunited with the community he left in April 1961.

As the nation reflects on Madiba’s first moments of freedom, it is important that we do not isolate them from the present South African experience.

Just as the moment Madiba stepped out of jail gave us hope for a just and unified South Africa, our memory of it should stir in us a determination to address challenges of inequality, poverty and social exclusion we face today.  

On the 13th February 2017, the Nelson Mandela Foundation will return to Orlando East at what was then Donaldson Orlando Community Centre (DOCC), where Madiba used to train in the 1950s.

This is where the Nelson Mandela Centenary programme will be launched to mark 100 years since his birth.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation says it believes that if society applies Madiba’s humility, tact and penchant for dialogue, challenges that threaten South Africa
can be faced.

The Foundation adds: “As we reflect on an unforgettable South African moment, let us be sure not to see it in isolation. The #27for27 campaign calls on us to reflect on our past, engage on the present and imagine the future the way we would want to see it.”
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