What happened in South Africa after Nelson Mandela was released from prison

Political prisoner to national reconciler

“It is not always easy to work out how to live a righteous life. That apartheid is wrong is relatively obvious, but how to live against apartheid is the harder question, because even the smallest decision has complicated consequences.” - From Begging to be Black , by Antjie Krog (Random House Struik, 2009).

On 11 February 1990 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela made his now famous and celebrated walk out of the confines of Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, Western Cape, a walk from the relatively unambiguous position of world-famous political prisoner whom few knew personally, to the highly ambiguous, both emotionally and politically, roles of hero of the nation, leader of the successful revolution, spokesperson for the oppressed and reconciler of the previously warring races.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Madiba)
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Madiba)
We sat under the trees of the small holding in Halfway House to watch Madela's walk to freedom. Photo Tony McGregor
We sat under the trees of the small holding in Halfway House to watch Madela's walk to freedom. Photo Tony McGregor

The day Mandela walked into freedom

It was a Sunday afternoon and we were living, with a number of other people and families, on a small holding in the little town of Halfway House, halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. We moved the TV out onto a table in the garden and all sat around it watching this longed-for, hoped-against-hoped-for, event to play itself out on the screen.

We were all still reeling from the events of almost two weeks previously when then President F.W. De Klerk had made his historic opening of Parliament address on 2 February 1990 in which he had announced that all the previously banned liberation movements were immediately unbanned, that political prisoners would be released, and, most importantly, that with regard to the most famous of them, “the Government has taken a firm decision to release Mr Mandela unconditionally.”

De Klerk said on 2 February that, “The Government will take a decision soon on the date of his release. Unfortunately, a further short passage of time is unavoidable.” This, De Klerk said, was because, “In the case of Mr Mandela there are factors in the way of his immediate release, of which his

personal circumstances and safety are not the least. He has not been an ordinary prisoner for quite some time. Because of that, his case requires particular circumspection.”

Since that incredible 2 February Opening of Parliament Address the country and the world had been waiting, anxiously and excitedly, for the moment. It was for us, watching events unfold on the TV screen, almost unbelievably moving. We sat, many of us with tears streaming, until at last we caught sight of the tall, dignified figure in a lounge suit, broad smile creasing the unfamiliar features, hand held high in triumphant greeting to his people, to us. It was, to use a tired phrase for which I can find no better alternative, a defining moment. There was South Africa before 11 February 1990, and South

Mandela votes for the first time in his life. He was 76 years old.
Mandela votes for the first time in his life. He was 76 years old.

South Africa after 11 February 1990

The South Africa before that date was relatively unambiguous, because you were either against or for apartheid. There were grey areas, of course, there were question marks and, as Antjie Krog wrote, while the question, the moral decision about apartheid was sort of easy – apartheid was wrong, no question, - the bigger question of how to live against it was one which every person had to answer in his or her own way. There were no clear answers and many who could not live with that uncertainty had left South Africa, to join the liberation armies of freedom fighters or for greener pastures in Australia or Canada, where the existential questions were perhaps slightly less agonising and ambiguous.

In the South Africa after 11 February 1990, after the euphoria died down, the realities of the task ahead became more clear, and the difficulties of bringing together people out of the many separate races and classes that had become warring factions under apartheid started to look insurmountable at times.

In the famous 2 February address De Klerk issued an invitation to the leaders of the liberation movements: “Walk through the open door, take your place at the negotiating table together with the Government and other leaders who have important power bases inside and outside of Parliament.”

De Klerk also said, “On the basis of numerous previous statements there is no longer any reasonable excuse for the continuation of violence.”

In spite of this the violence increased to incredible levels, with the now-free liberation movements vying violently with the more collaborationist movements that had not been banned, the flames of this violence enthusiastically fanned by some in the shady areas of the security forces and even, perhaps, with the connivance of people up to Cabinet level. There were moments, far too many such moments, when it seemed to us that just when apartheid and its evil machinery was about to be overcome at last, it was threatening to come back in a form worse than before.

It was a time of threats of vengeance, a time of paying back for many. It was not a pleasant time. But it was an exciting time, when, through the dense smoke of the flames, we caught enticing, yet fragile, views of what could emerge, of a better future that could happen.

There was posturing and politicking on both sides, there were accusations and counter-accusations that threatened to derail the whole thing and send us plunging back into the darkness from which we were struggling to emerge.

The Convention for a Democratic South Africa (called, in the absolute flurry of abbreviations and acronyms that came at that time, Codesa) started to meet in a complex of buildings near the Johannesburg airport (then still called Jan Smuts Airport and now called O.R. Tambo International) called the World Trace Centre, since converted into a hotel and casino complex.

Codesa brought together most of the political players and went through many ups and downs, bringing us hope one moment and despair the next.

During the time of Codesa's work many dreadful things took place, each of which threatened to derail the process and plunge the country into a nightmare of violence. These were the Bisho massacre in which 30 ANC supporters were gunned down and killed by troops of the Ciskeian Bantustan government; the Boipatong massacre in which 45 people, mostly women and children, were killed, allegedly by supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party; the assassination of South African Communist Party General Secretary Chris Hani outside his home on the East Rand; and the invasion of another Bantustan homeland, Bophutatswana, by the right-wing Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB – the Afrikaner Resistance Movement).

As a priest friend of mine had said to me in the early 1980s, “It is highly unrealistic to expect that 400 years of violent oppression will end without violence.” The violence was frightening, horrible in the extreme, and it was not always clear, through the smoke and rhetoric, who the “good guys” were and who the “bad guys” were.

Codesa continued, in fits and starts, from late 1991 to its collapse as a result of Boipatong, in June 1992.

The follow-up was the Multiparty Negotiating Forum (MPNF) which met in April 1993 and was more inclusive than Codesa. The MPNF ratified an interim constitution for South Africa in November 1993 which set up a Transitional Executive Council to run the country until the democratic elections were held on 27 April 1994.

Mandela's legacy

"Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world."

  • from Nelson Mandela's Inaugural Address, 10 May 1994.

Through all of this the wise leadership of Nelson Mandela helped to steer the country, haltingly and all too slowly, it seemed to us, towards the future which he laid out in his address to the opening session of Codesa: “Our people and the world expect a non-racial, non-sexist democracy to emerge from the negotiations on which we are about to embark.”

When he walked out of that prison on 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela walked irrevocably into our lives. No-one in South Africa could ignore him any more, no-one could turn the clock back, because Mandela was there as a symbol of what could be, of what was struggling to be born. And is still struggling to be born. The difference now is that we have seen the mountaintop, we know what could be, and will not settle for less. Because the future is now in our hands, all of us, black and white, men and women, rich and poor. We will make that future.

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Comments 75 comments

kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 6 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Yes. Nelson Mandela is a true hero - a man who will never be forgotten for his courage and decency - He is an inspiration for us all. Great hub, Tony!


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

The whole issue of apartheid and especially Nelson Mandela was quite a big thing in my life, even though I am Brit and was living in England for most of his incaerration.

You certainly put this so well together. I've had an exra history lesson. Lots , I didn't know. Thank you very much. Peace. x


VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 6 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

I had little chills when I read this article. I deeply admire Nelson Mandela, and was actually thinking of him last night. This man represents to me courage, love, change and the greatness of spirit.

Thank you very much, for writing so beautifully about this awesome man!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Kartika, Dim, Violet - thanks so much for reading and commenting. Your doing so means a lot to me. And I love South African history and of course Madiba! He has been an inspiration to me since I first read his famous "Statement from the dock" in the Rivonia Trial back in the mid 1960s. It is an amazing document.

Love and peace

Tony


liswilliams profile image

liswilliams 6 years ago from South Africa

Thanks for this great hub, Tony, one of my favorite subjects!


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I read his biography. He is an incredible man. He is brilliant. The videos are great. The hub is great. Thanks Tony.


kirstein.peter53 profile image

kirstein.peter53 6 years ago from Maseru

I remember that day well - I was able to freely display in my bookshelf all the previously banned, political literature, including the "statement from the dock"!

Great hub Tony.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Lis. Mickey, Pete - thanks so much for visiting and commenting on my little tribute to a great man. And yes, Pette, was it not great to have that freedom at last! Freedom is an uncertain thing but far preferable to the certainty of unfreedom!

Thanks again

Love and peace

Tony


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

He is indeed an awesome man, thanks for this wonderful tribute, he is the one best for who fought for equality, Thank you Tony, Maita


Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

Tatjana-Mihaela 6 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

Nelson Mandela is inspiration for many people on this world.

Ending of your Hub is just excellent and so moving: "The difference now is that we have seen the mountaintop, we know what could be, and will not settle for less. Because the future is now in our hands, all of us, black and white, men and women, rich and poor. We will make that future."

Thank you Tony for beautiful Hub.

Love and peace


amillar profile image

amillar 6 years ago from Scotland, UK

Nice one Tony. Nelson Mandela reminds us that change can happen.


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

I remember the day well. Of course for you it was more poignant.

I watched a program recently about Winnie Mandela which was interesting.

I do hope South Africa makes it. You have come so far.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Maita - he is indeed awesome!

Tatjana - thanks for the wonderful words.

Amillar - yes, change can happen. It just seems sometimes to come too late or at too high a cost, doesn't it?

Ethel - it was a moment never to be forgotten. And thanks for the positive wishes. We have come so far, and there still seems so far to go!

Thanks everyone for taking the time to read and comment. It is much appreciated indeed!

Love and peace

Tony


SOBF profile image

SOBF 6 years ago from New York, NY

tony - I am a true believer that South Africa will stand as a beacon to the rest of the world. She has come much further, much faster than other nations challenged by internal conflict even if it seems slow from the inside. Great Hub!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

SOBF - thanks for the read and the comment. I appreciate it very much. Yes I know we have come a long way in a relatively short time. I still see things that make me do a double-take, things that under apartheid would have been criminal, but are now becoming almost run-of-the-mill. And I am so grateful for that.

Love and peace

Tony


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

The emotion of this piece is palpable. I teared up, Tony. I remember this event, as I had tracked his situation. But I had no where near your commitment or involvement: your telling made it all come alive. Thank you!

I have this sense that the dituation here in the US requires some deep change. It is not as horrific as apartheid, but we are so focused on the Almightly Dollar and The Power that comes with it. Our Congress seems frozen in its ability to generate change for the poorest of the poor or even middle class participants in Society. It isn't about the good of The People.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

The emotion of this piece is palpable. I teared up, Tony. I remember this event, as I had tracked his situation. But I had no where near your commitment or involvement: your telling made it all come alive. Thank you!

I have this sense that the dituation here in the US requires some deep change. It is not as horrific as apartheid, but we are so focused on the Almightly Dollar and The Power that comes with it. Our Congress seems frozen in its ability to generate change for the poorest of the poor or even middle class participants in Society. It isn't about the good of The People.


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 6 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

I remember that day, it was so touching.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Story - change is always hard and the "almighty dollar" as you say has much power. It is not too different here now, I might add!

UW - thanks and to my Hubs you are always invited!

Love and peace and many, many sincere thanks

Tony


Tubbs Merouge profile image

Tubbs Merouge 6 years ago from Louisiana

Amazing the changes that have transpired there since I was there. I lived in Johannesburg near the Hillbrow district for five months in 1987. I simply loved how beautiful the country was. Great hub on Mandela, his story is so great to have been held for so long in prison and come out and become president!!


Rossimobis profile image

Rossimobis 6 years ago from Biafra

I heard about Nelson Mandela as a little boy in 1987,was a drama in the primary sch i attended,asked Dad about him and he said, a brother to Miriam Makeba cos mom always played her song those days....was until 89 that i got the bigger picture of him.Madiba d great,i was in Robben Island in 2001 with my wife.I love this hub though i know a lot about Mandela but i learned something new here.


DREAM ON profile image

DREAM ON 6 years ago

History was never my strong point.I enjoyed your hub and explaining more than I knew before.We can all learn from him.


Runway profile image

Runway 6 years ago from New York

Wow, this is so interesting! Thanks for sharing.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Tubbs, Rossi, Dream On, Runway - thanks for stopping by and commenting. Madiba is indeed a great man and we as a country are very blessed to have had him, and indeed many others, to lead us and teach us over the years.

Love and peace

Tony


SXP profile image

SXP 6 years ago from South Africa

Hi T

Well, one thing is clear and that is that most of thse who commented here, have no idea of what the realities in RSA is after 1994. That Mandela was freed, was forsure a good thing, but now the words of Slovo are being put into action:

He advised the black communists not to make huge changes, but to slwly erode the freedoms of people and especially whites.By his reckoning it would be too late for fighting back by the time the people woke up to the truth.

Sadly all the good that Mandela did is now eroded by those who came afer him and we are all the poorer for it. No wonder that the stream of people leaving just keeps going.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi SXP - thanks for your comment. It is indeed sad that so many of those high hopes have not been realised yet. I still have hope, though. We are a resourceful people and will find a way, of that I'm sure!

Love and peace

Tony


green tea-cher profile image

green tea-cher 6 years ago

Hi Tony! I believe that Nelson Mandela impacted us too much for his hopes not to be realized - unfortunately it sometimes takes a long time. I agree with you- we are a resourceful people and we will find a way. Thanks for the hub


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Green Tea-cher - thanks for the visit and the comment. Are you also0 South African? Appreciate your taking the time.

Love and peace

Tony


green tea-cher profile image

green tea-cher 6 years ago

no, sorry to mislead you Tony. I am not South African. But, Nelson Mandela impacted people like myself in many different countries that deal with similar issues, but on a different level. "We" have our issues in Canada, too, and I also believe that we are resourceful enough to resolve them.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

OK I understand, Green Tea-cher! Thanks.


JannyC profile image

JannyC 6 years ago

beautifully written


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Janny - thank you!

Love and peace

Tony


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia

Love Nelson Mandela, read his biography many times, he is our icon and we need people like him, now more than ever...thank you for great article...all the best to you TOny


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks Beata for your comment. He is indeed a great person and we have been very blessed to have him as such a great leader.

Love and peace

Tony


fran 105 6 years ago

wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Yes, Fran, it was rather "Wow!"

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Love and peace

Tony


purpletiger profile image

purpletiger 6 years ago

The world owes it to this man.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Purpletiger - we all do owe him, indeed. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Love and peace

Tony


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

Nicely written, I remember when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. He is a great man along with Dr M.L. King.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Coolmon - thanks for the visit and the comment. I appreciate it.

Love and peace

Tony


jandee profile image

jandee 6 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

Hello Tony,loved reading and like the way you deal with the -anti- ones in a pure Mandela way ! Wish I could get to be as non-judgemental,very best to you from,m

P.S Great to be able to buy a bottle of red without worrying about propping up the old apartheid regime !!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Maxine - glad y9ou can now enjoy that good Cape cabernet! I do hope to be non-judgemental, and I know it's not easy!

Love and peace

Tony


BOGOLO SEAN4E 6 years ago

MADIBA IS THE GREATEST MAN I EVER READ ABOUT I REALLY ADMIRE YOUR GREAT SPIRIT AND WORK

THANKS AND MANDELA YOU ARE MY ROLE MODEL.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Bogolo - thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Love and peace

Tony


Nera Woods profile image

Nera Woods 6 years ago

I first read about Mandela when I was in high school here in the Phil. The book had a lot of pages about his marriage to Winnie and I was fascinated. Of course, my deeper admiration was for Mandela and his fight. When he was released years later, it was a time of euphoria not only in SA, but also in most countries.

I just feel sad that the romance (the romance of my hi-school reading days) didn't end happily ever after.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Nera - sorry about the romance of your hi-school days fading away, but that is the way of romance, very often. Thanks so much for you kind words. I do appreciate them.

Love and peace

Tony


Ant. 6 years ago

Its unbelievable to think how far we've come as a nation.Yes,its been tough, but South African are a tough people..we've made it this far,what's to stop us now!

Nice piece,i liked all the comments.Sad to think he isn't getting any younger, wonder what the future without Madiba hold for us!


4Reine 6 years ago

tonymac04, cos of the idiotic liberals like you, we are in this deep stinky shit... http://plaintruthmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/06/sto...


mamasindy 6 years ago

I don't agree with your observations about Nelson Mandela.The curses of the descendants of Ephraim (Britain ) are being played out in with the slaughter of Whites in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.South Africa I fear will go the same way.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I just came by to see my BrotherMen Tony and Nelson Mandella again! I never tire of your gospel Tony! Never! Have you been riding that bike Brother? I love you BrotherMan!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Ant - thank you. It is indeed a marvellous thing in spite of the many problems that do continue to trouble us.

4Reine - the stinky shit is nowhere near as deep as it was in the days of apartheid, my friend!

Mamasindy - I'm not sure what news broadcasts you're listening to. We have lkots of difficulties, no doubt, but a "slaughter of whites" has not featured too prominently in any that I've heard.

Thanks all for the visits and the comments.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Micky my Brotherman! It is always good to see you. Thanks for the visit and the kind words. Much appreciated.

Yes I have been on that bike and going again today! I love being on the road.

Love and peace

Tony


alieu d york  6 years ago

nelson mandela is great freedom figther as far as south africa is concern he bring peace and harmony in the door atep of every south sfrican.


billrobinson profile image

billrobinson 5 years ago from CA, USA

All good information you have here. Thanks for posting.


damian 5 years ago

i am awsome


damian L 5 years ago

i am gay


steen  5 years ago

Nelson is a great freedom fighter


damian 5 years ago

nelson rocks


swedal profile image

swedal 5 years ago from Colorado

Really nice to learn more about Nelson Mandela. He accomplished many great things.


HISTORYSPAST442 5 years ago

NELSON MANDELA IS A TRUE HERO HE DID GREAT THINGS TO HISTORY, IM A YOUNG GIRL AND ITS GREAT WHAT HE DID I READ MANY BOOKS WROTE ABOUT HIM AND I DECIDED TO GET ON THE ENTERNET AND LEARN MORE AND I LEANRED JUST WHAT I NEED U DID SOMETHING GREAT NELSON

LOVVE; HISTORYSPAST442


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Swedal - thanks for stopping by. He is indeed a great man.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Historyspast - glad you found this useful.

Love and peace

Tony


kelly...BEAUTIFUL 5 years ago

Nelson Mandela is so inspirational and i love you for all that you have done for south africa not only south africa but for the whole world...i am only 13 years old and i am doing my speech on you for inspirational people and i am glad for your maturity and your big heart for forgiving those who were racists and that you have made a difference for my generation and many generations to come


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Kelly beautiful - thanks for stopping by. Not often I get a visit here from a 13-year-old! I really appreciate your comment.

Love and peace

Tony


sligobay profile image

sligobay 5 years ago from east of the equator

Thank you again Tony for an inside glimpse of the unfolding history of the times following Mandella's release from prison. Voted awesome.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Gerry - thank you for the visit and the comment. Appreciated.

Love and peace

Tony


sligobay profile image

sligobay 5 years ago from east of the equator

Hello again Tony. It is a fantastic article and it inspired my recent Hub which quoted Mandella that poverty is not natural but man-made. Glad to see that your Hub Score has returned to normal.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Gerry - thanks, my friend. I did see your Hub and nhoticed the vid!

Love and peace

Tony


Greenheart profile image

Greenheart 4 years ago from Cambridge

Thanks for the hub. My father worked for Mandela briefly as his lawyer in the 60's, when he was on Robben Island.

Quite a place to visit, too!.


jeanihess profile image

jeanihess 4 years ago from Cape Town South Africa

:) Lovely hub. We have much work to do now.


Vamshider 3 years ago

It is good that even the powerful poaiiictln cn b sent to court if thy are guilt o corrupt because they are killng the organisation and its fustrating that u vote for a ruling party nw that they are in power the are worse that the apatheid gorvnent coz u put yo trust to them they dnt care abt us


Johnd800 2 years ago

Good day! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form? I'm using the same blog platform as yours and I'm having problems finding one? Thanks a lot! dcgkkgkdbfcg


MonkeyShine75 profile image

MonkeyShine75 20 months ago from Los Angeles, California

Since 1994 there have been 70,000 white South Africans murdered, and the residents there are hoping for their genocide, per BBC, CNN, and NBC news


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 20 months ago from South Africa Author

I'm not going to dispute your statistic however it needs to be put into context, MonkeyShine75. In the same period how many blacks were murdered? In addition, a genocide is the deliberate targeting of a specific group with the intention of eliminating that group. That is in no way the case in South Africa where the murders are criminal acts. Further, many of the whites killed were killed by fellow whites.


Ivan Uys profile image

Ivan Uys 7 months ago from Fort Worth, Texas

The terrorism that brought apartheid down, changed its face, and a new terrorism was born. They tasted blood, and would not be sated. Now they drink it with impunity while the rest of the world talks "justification!" Mandela didn't, but Tambo does. Will about 40 years of apartheid never really end? Maybe, just maybe, the educated kids of tomorrow will bring back sanity and Mandela's legacy will be reborn for all to see, and South Africa will shine again for all to enjoy

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