Trib­ute at prison where Man­dela walked free

Chants of amandla, clenched fists and songs at the site made fa­mous 23 years ago

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013 - FA­TIMA SCHROEDER

IT HAD the sig­nif­i­cant mark­ings of that day in South Africa’s his­tory when for­mer Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela was re­leased af­ter spend­ing 27 years be­hind bars un­der the apartheid regime.

There was the punch­ing of fists in the air, the colours of the ANC flag were prom­i­nent, and a crowd of peo­ple sang and chanted “amandla”.

How­ever, it wasn’t Fe­bru­ary 11, 1990, and yes­ter­day’s gath­er­ing at the very lo­ca­tion where the for­mer pres­i­dent took his first steps to free­dom – Drak­en­stein Prison (for­merly known as Vic­tor Ver­ster Prison) in Paarl – did not carry with it the joy and ela­tion of the re­lease of the fa­ther of South Africa’s democ­racy.

But it was a fit­ting com­mem­o­ra­tion as the crowd of peo­ple from dif­fer­ent races and cul­tural back­grounds stood united and paid trib­ute to the life of the for­mer pres­i­dent.

Stand­ing be­fore the larg­erthan-life-sized statue that cap­tured the smile Man­dela had on his face when he was re­leased, and how he held his fist up high, mem­bers of the Boland re­gion of the ANC spoke about the legacy he had left be­hind as they held a ban­ner that read: “Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba”.

To­gether with sup­port­ers from the Boland com­mu­nity, they marched to the prison and laid a wreath at the foot of the 3m tall statue, be­fore a team from the lo­cal hospice dec­o­rated the site with red flow­ers.

Deputy min­is­ter of Hu­man Set­tle­ments, Zou Kota, ad­dress- ed the peo­ple, filled with emo­tion and al­most chok­ing on her words.

Man­dela, she said, was larger than life, a dreamer, a free­dom fighter.

“But above all, he was a uni­fier,” she added, say­ing that he would live on in the hearts of peo­ple across the globe.

She praised him for fight­ing for the rights of women, and his ef­forts to house the poor.

“Madiba opened the door of democ­racy Africans.

“Long live the spirit of Madiba,” she said.

Then, as if they were reen­act­ing how Man­dela trav­elled from the prison to City Hall in Cape Town’s CBD to ad­dress his sup­port­ers, those who at­tended yes­ter­day’s gath­er­ing left the site to at­tend an in­ter-faith prayer meet­ing at the Grand Pa­rade.

Other me­mo­rial gath­er­ings

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South were ar­ranged across the Boland area.

Man­dela was trans­ferred to Drak­en­stein Prison in 1988, and lived in a pri­vate house in­side the prison com­pound be­fore be­ing re­leased in 1990.

The pri­vate house where he lived has been de­clared a na­tional her­itage site.

The statue, known as the Long Walk to Free­dom Statue, was un­veiled on his 90th birth­day in 2008.

PIC­TURE: JEROME ABED

HAMBA KAHLE: Mem­bers of the ANC’s Boland re­gion and sup­port­ers from the com­mu­nity pay trib­ute to Nel­son Man­dela at the site at Drak­en­stein Prison, where he took his first steps as a free man in Fe­bru­ary 1990. A wreath was laid at the foot of a statue of Man­dela out­side the prison gates.

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