Debate over Mandela manuscript

2014-01-14 14:43
Nelson Mandela (File, AFP)

Nelson Mandela (File, AFP)

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Johannesburg - The Nelson Mandela Foundation on Tuesday moved to correct an article published on PoliticsWeb questioning why a manuscript written by the former president was published just before his death.

On Monday, Stephen Ellis, professor of social sciences at the Free University, Amsterdam, wrote an article in which he said the 627-page document seemed to have been placed online just a few days before Mandela's death on 5 December.

"Why the Centre of Memory decided to place such an important and even explosive text online at that juncture is unclear.

"The centre made no attempt to publicise the move, for example by announcing the publication on its homepage," he said.

Recorded conversations in archive

The foundation has denied this, saying the manuscript was first posted on its website on 4 November, 2011.

"In addition, Mr Mandela’s book Conversations with Myself, which was published worldwide in October 2010, contains many extracts from his 'unpublished autobiographical manuscript written in prison', as does Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations, published in June 2011," the foundation said in a statement.

"We have also made it clear in our public communications that we have in our archive the recorded conversations between Mandela and Richard Stengel made during the work they did together preparing the Long Walk to Freedom manuscript for publication."

The foundation said Mandela had elaborated on what was written in the manuscript during these conversations and audio extracts had been used in documentaries, television and radio programmes in the past few years.

Editorial notes

In his article, Ellis said the document was re-worked in the years after Mandela's release from prison to form the basis for Long Walk to Freedom.

He said the document was strewn with editorial notes from Mandela himself, Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu and Mac Maharaj.

Ellis said there were key difference between the 1970s manuscript and Mandela's 1994 book.

He claimed the manuscript contained information that helped fill in the chronology of some key moments in South Africa's history, especially in the turn to armed struggle in 1960.

The foundation said it appeared that Ellis was concerned on how open it was to debate the life of Mandela.

"We welcome debate and encourage him and others to engage us directly on any lines of inquiry that relate to our continued work and core mandate on memory and dialogue," it said.

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