Mandela changed his historic Rivonia speech

2013-12-12 21:54
A 1998 file photo shows the late former president Nelson Mandela in his old Robben Island prison cell. (Rick Wilking, AP)

A 1998 file photo shows the late former president Nelson Mandela in his old Robben Island prison cell. (Rick Wilking, AP)

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2013-12-12 18:21

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Johannesburg - Former president Nelson Mandela's lawyer George Bizos advised him to slightly alter the speech he delivered shortly before he was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia trial in the 1960s, it was revealed on Thursday.

Speaking at Mandela's celebration and memorial held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Mandela's friend and anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada said Bizos advised Mandela to add the word "if needs be", to a pivotal part of the speech he delivered.

The altered stanza which has become globally known as one of Mandela's most famous quotes read: "It is an ideal for which I have lived; it is an ideal for which I hope to live and see realised. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

The penned note was screened at Mandela's memorial and celebration at Wits on Thursday, showing the words "needs be" squeezed into Mandela's orginal note.

Bizos said he knew the night before the sentencing that Mandela, Kathrada and a group of other accused would not be handed the death penalty.

He said the apartheid government knew that they would have no one to negotiate with if they sentenced the group, Mandela and his co-accused, to death.

Bizos added that the judge who sentenced Mandela was against the death penalty as he had previously sentenced a man to death. He later found out the information against the man had been false.

Bizos and Kathrada were speaking in a laid back public conversation before a crowd with Wits Chancellor and deputy of chief justice Dikgang Moseneke leading the conversation.

They shared their memories of Mandela and their experiences of the struggle.

Mandela, 95, died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, last week.

The former statesman is to be buried in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape on Sunday.

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  george bizos  |  ahmed kathrada  |  johannesburg

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