Mandela Freed: 25th Anniversary

BY MATTHEW COLLINS - FEBRUARY 11, 2015

Today marks the 25th anniversary of when Nelson Mandela was released, unconditionally, from prison after having spent 27 years behind bars, overshadowed by thick walls.

This release came in the wake of F.W. de Klerk’s famous watershed speech on the 2nd of February 1990 (which also celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this month) when the unbanning of various political organisations, including the ANC, and the release of Nelson Mandela was announced.

Nelson Mandela would be released from the Victor Verster Prison (later named Drakenstein Correctional Centre), just outside Paarl, before being taken to Cape Town, alongside Winnie Mandela, where a crowd in its thousands awaited his presence.

He addressed a large audience in Cape Town through a speech which thanked countless individuals and organisations for their efforts in fighting for the “Struggle” and for securing his release.

However, his speech included the statement that the armed struggle, with the military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe or “MK”, must continue: “The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue.” To bring context to this belief, he would later say: “We have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts.”

In spite of this stance, Mandela was open to negotiations being conducted in order to lay the way for South Africa’s ideal future.

Negotiations would later follow, but the road would not be easy as many disagreements were ever-present throughout the process, such as in the CODESA talks, and the escalating violence in the country was extremely troubling to all.

Yet, at the end of apartheid’s hold on South Africa, an all-inclusive general election did take place and the country would be transformed into a democracy. It has been called a “true” miracle on many levels.

In the words of a recent statement by President Jacob Zuma on Mandela’s release: "This day... marked a giant leap in the long walk to freedom, not just for Nelson Mandela but also for the people of South Africa as a whole."

However, with this past in mind, we, including the ANC of today, need to continuously examine the ideals of those who have gone before us and, in doing so, to seriously question ourselves as to whether or not we are living up to the standards they envisaged.

 

Image courtesy of: jamaica-gleaner.com