Mandela's jail a heritage site

Cape Town - The Drakenstein Correctional Centre, formerly the Victor Verster Prison, from which ex-president Nelson Mandela walked free after being jailed for 27 years has been declared a heritage site, the National Heritage Council (NHC) said on Wednesday.

"Today the NHC recognises the site as one of the rare premium icons of the national liberation heritage," NHC CEO Sonwabile Mangcotywa said in Johannesburg.

Mandela was transferred to the prison, near Paarl, from the maximum security prison on Robben Island in 1988 in preparation for his release on February 11 1990.

National recognition

Mangcotywa said the house in which he lived at the prison for the two years before his release was an iconic landmark in narrating the South African history of the liberation struggle.

"As part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of Mandela's release, this site had to be given national recognition," he said.

Mandela's daughter, Zindzi, remembered the day of her father's release from prison as one "filled with love".

"I was still mourning the death of the father of my child when I heard the news of my father's release. It was very emotional and comforting," she said.

She said she was terrified by the love and support shown by South Africans.

"The streets around our home were blocked by people who came to show their love. We could not even get into the house. It was wonderful."

Grateful to the people

Zindzi said her father had always emphasised he was grateful that people remembered him.

She said it was difficult to grow up without a father.

"I was only 18-months-old when tata went to prison. As I grew up I understood why he was there, but it was difficult growing up without him," she said.

Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, said very few people understood how much the imprisonment of freedom fighters affected their families and children.

"Their stories need to be told separately. People do not understand how difficult it was to be a freedom fighter and a mother at the same time," she said.

Madikizela-Mandela said all struggle heroes, not only those aligned with the ruling African National Congress, should have their stories told.

"Heroes like Steve Biko and Robert Sobukwe should be given as much recognition as Mandela. Other leaders like [Walter] Sisulu and [Oliver] Tambo should have their stories told like that of the Mandelas too," she said.

Very emotional

She said Mandela's release was very emotional for the entire family.

Madikizela-Mandela said the ANC needed to re-examine its policies to ensure that service delivery was a priority. That would mean real victory for those who were jailed or died for the liberation struggle, she said.

"Our councillors are accused of corruption. People are calling for service delivery, and sometimes it is our fault."

Mandela, 91, would not be taking part in Thursday's commemorations of his release at Drakenstein Correctional Centre - the prison from which he memorably walked free hand-in-hand with his then wife, Winnie.

According to Zindzi, Mandela is in good health. "My father is very well. He is a typical 91-year-old, but he is very well."

Mandela's house which was built for him in Qunu village in his hometown, Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape, is a replica of his prison house - at his request.

Mangcotywa said the council was looking at the possibility of South Africans paying less than foreigners to visit such a site because it was very expensive for locals.
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