‘Madiba’s’ passing marks
the end of an era
This capture from video was controversial when it first was aired in South Africa in April because it showed the ailing Nelson Mandela, “Madiba,” in less than optimal condition.
OF ALL THE GLOBAL FIGURES of the 20th century, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela stood head and shoulders above the rest.
His passing in Johannesburg will be mourned by the entire world. He turned 95 on July 18.
A giant of a man who suffered almost 30 years of imprisonment for his opposition to Apartheid, Mandela rose from humble origins to become the first democratically elected president of the Rainbow Nation.
I was just 10 years old when he and other leading members of the African National Congress were put on trial in Rivonia, Transvaal.
IT WAS A NOTORIOUS proceeding, a kangaroo court.
Mandela was then banished to Robben Island prison, a mere seven miles off the coast of Cape Town. We could see it from my parents’ penthouse apartment in Sea Point.
Many volumes have been written about this figure who dominated the world stage in the 1990s. I will not repeat them here.
His joint Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 was well deserved.
I joined the struggle against Apartheid in 1972 as a member of the National Union of South African Students. (NUSAS) I was among many beaten up by the police at a 1973 protest held on the steps of St. George’s Cathedral in central Cape Town.
The police were not content to just club us with their nightsticks; when we sought refuge inside the sanctuary, they followed us inside.
One by one, we were dragged into the paddy wagons, then transported to police headquarters on the Grand Parade. We were later bailed out by the NUSAS attorney.
The following year, 1974, I began as a cub reporter with South African Associated Newspapers. The English-language press at this time was the most vocal opponent of apartheid inside the country.
THE PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION, then known as the United Party, was weak and divided. The late Helen Suzman of the Progressive Party – its sole Member of Parliament – was the loudest voice of reason in a country gone to hell in a hand-basket.
The National Party government hated the English language press and did everything it could to muzzle it. One paper I worked for, The Rand Daily Mail, was virtually censored out of existence in the 1980s.
I got my first big break as a reporter covering the dramatic escape of my former NUSAS colleague, Neville Curtis, who fled for Australia using a borrowed passport.
My story was syndicated throughout the country. Read it here.
Let us pause for a moment of silence today as we pay our respects to a great visionary, a humble man and a force for change on the planet.
Nelson Mandela contributed to every single one of us with his life’s work.
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