Guests arriving for Mandela celebrations

2010-02-11 07:33

VIP guests have begun arriving at Drakenstein Prison near Paarl

today for a morning of celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of Nelson

Mandela’s release from jail.

The morning, organised by the African National Congress, kicks off

with a breakfast in a marquee erected in the prison grounds.

Among the early arrivals were ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa, who is

to speak at the breakfast, Mandela’s prison comrade Ahmed Kathrada, and struggle

veteran Mac Maharaj.

After the breakfast, there will be a march through the prison gates

to symbolise Mandela’s first steps to freedom in 1990.

Mandela spent just over a year at Drakenstein, then named Victor

Verster, accommodated in what had been a warder’s house.

He will not attend the event at the prison, but will be at

President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address in Parliament this


Kathrada told journalists at the breakfast the anniversary had

great significance for South Africa.

“But we must remember that the second of February [the day of the

announcement that Mandela would be freed] and the 11th of February were part of

a process,” he said.

“These days didn’t just suddenly descend on us. It was part of a

process that Mr Mandela started from prison, while we were with him at Pollsmoor


Asked whether the South Africa of today was something he was proud

of, he said it had to be remembered that the apartheid regime had robbed people

of their dignity and humanity.

“We regained our dignity. Without dignity, all the wealth, all the

freedom is nothing.

“We also liberated our white compatriots, because they had believed

the propaganda that come a black president this country will be plunged into


“And we instilled into the people of South Africa pride, one

nation, one flag, one anthem. That is more important than any material


Kathrada declined to comment on the controversy over Zuma’s love

child, saying he was an “ordinary ANC branch member” and kept his opinions on

such issues to himself.


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