Many people across the globe are today remembering the day on which former President Nelson Mandela raised his fist in the air as he made his way out of the Victor Verster prison, in a move that would alter the history of South Africa.
Today, the world vividly remembers the iconic photograph of a grey-haired Mandela dressed in a dark suit, crisp white shirt and tie, arm-in-arm with Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, as they emerged from the Paarl prison that Madiba, as he is affectionately known, had called home for 14 months.
The anti-apartheid global icon was released on 11 February 1990 from the facility which is now known as the Drakenstein Correctional Centre. In present day South Africa, the centre boasts a statue of the man himself, with his fist clenched in the air.
Madiba’s release followed the announcement by then President FW de Klerk of the unbanning of liberation movements like the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress.
The man who spent a total 27-years of his life incarcerated had also insisted that he be released from the Western Cape prison instead of being transported to his house in Soweto as had been offered by President de Klerk. In addition, his beloved wife Winnie had to be by his side.
To mark this historic release, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is today hosting a reunion of some of the original members of the National Reception Committee that facilitated the global icon’s return from prison.
President Cyril Ramaphosa – who was the committee’s chairperson – recalled the events of that day in his weekly newsletter on Monday.
“I remember vividly the large crowd that had gathered outside Victor Verster prison in Paarl, waiting patiently for several hours to see their hero walk free. And the many more residents of Cape Town who gathered on the Grand Parade to hear him speak,” said the President.
He said the image of a 71-year-old Mandela walking through the gates of the prison confirmed to South Africa and the rest of the world that a new era had dawned.
The need to unite South Africa’s people, is what stood out for President Ramaphosa of the former statesman’s address made at the Cape Town City Hall’s balcony.
“It was true then and it remains true three decades later,” said President Ramaphosa, who also reflected on the political violence of those days.
President Ramaphosa is expected to deliver a speech on Madiba’s release later today from the iconic Cape Town City Hall balcony.
Prior to the President’s address, the Foundation will also host a lecture by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee and a panel discussion with author of ‘Feeling and Ugly” Danai Mupotsa and co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Opal Tometi.
Today’s anniversary falls within the same week that President Ramaphosa will deliver his State of the Nation Address on Thursday, 13 February.
The SONA which will get underway at 7 pm will be made before a joint siting of the two houses of Parliament - the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. -SAnews.gov.za