Tribute at prison where Mandela walked free
Chants of amandla, clenched fists and songs at the site made famous 23 years ago
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
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.
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.