Friday 15 December 2017

busy days on mandela beat

From the elections in 1994 to his 85th birthday, covering Mandela's landmark moments was humbling but rewarding, writes Joy Orpen

Joy Orpen

THE day Nelson Mandela was released from jail I glued (figuratively speaking) my children to the television set, terrified they would miss the pivotal moment transforming South Africa from a dehumanising, racist nation into a democracy.

It was February 11, 1990, and the kids were then aged six and eight. They were too young to understand the importance of what was happening, but they were old enough to note that something extraordinary was in the air, so later, as adults, they could conjure up that historic moment.

The hours dragged by and then finally Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was outside the gates of Victor Verster prison, near Cape Town, his heart-melting smile delighting the world. South Africa went crazy that day – with a few fascist exceptions. Hugging, kissing, blaring horns, tears, popping corks – some more tears – of joy and pure relief.

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