Marking Madiba’s last speech before his arrest

2008-05-29 00:00

“ONE man, one vote, is the key to the future,” were the words of the then freedom fighter Nelson Mandela on March 25, 1961 at the Arya Samaj Hall in Imbali.

It was his last public speech before his arrest outside Howick in 1962. To commemorate this landmark, a monument was erected yesterday outside the hall near Zibukezulu High School.

In a form of a voter’s cross, the monument is the work of Pietermaritzburg sculptor Gert Swart, who was commissioned by the Sunday Times Heritage project in 2006 to mark the paper’s 100th year of publication.

Swart said the crucial aspect of the monument is that it depicts the struggle for the right to vote. “It says something about the pain and suffering that people had to go through during the struggle so that they can vote.”

The plaque describes what happened on the day.

“Here in what was once known as the Plessislaer Arya Samaj Hall, Nelson Mandela made a surprise appearance at the historic All-in-Africa conference and delivered his first public speech in five years. It was also to be his last as a free man for another 29 years.

“A bearded Mandela told the 1 400-strong delegates, representing 145 social and political organisations, that ‘one man, one vote, is the key to the future’. He called for economic sanctions against the apartheid government and warned of mass action. It was at this conference that the liberation call, Amandla Ngawethu! [power to the people!] became popular.”

Swart said of the style of the monument: “Its appearance fits in with the surroundings; this whole area is rugged. It looks like an old township, even the schoolgrounds and the hall present an image of neglect to some extent.”

The monument is made of an anti-corrosive steel, which rusts and then becomes stable.

The date for the unveiling of the monument has not been announced.

KZN ANC spokesman Senzo Mchuu said the issue will be discussed at a provincial meeting.

“It is a big event that needs proper co-ordination and planning,” Mchunu said.

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