Nelson Mandela remembered


This is a music video of the song “Nelson Mandela” from the album “In the Studio” by British band Special AKA (the Specials).

Lyrics are here.

By Peter Frost from Britain, about South Africa:

In the footsteps of the great liberator

Thursday 5th February 2015

Peter Frost visits the former Victor Verster prison where Nelson Mandela took some very important steps on his long march to freedom

It was something of a pilgrimage. My wife Ann and I had pitched the rented camper van in which were exploring South Africa on a pretty campsite among the vineyards near Paarl the handsome capital of the Cape Winelands.

An early start the next morning saw us driving along the spectacular valley of the Dwars River. Our destination was the far from romantically named Drakenstein Correctional Centre.

It was a journey we had been hoping to make for many years. The prison is still in use and outside were a cluster of worried-looking families joining the queue to visit incarcerated loved ones.

We were beginning to have doubts about the wisdom of our visit when a young smiling prison officer in a smart brown uniform knocked on our window.

“Hi,” she said with a smile. “Tourists? Are you from England? No doubt you are here to see where our beloved Madiba took his famous steps to freedom. Follow me,” she said.

So there we were just inside the gates of the former Victor Verster Prison where Nelson Mandela spent the last part of his 27 years of imprisonment.

The prison officer told us that the cottage where Mandela spent the last few months of his long sentence is now a South African national heritage site. Just outside the prison gate she showed us the fine statue of the great man himself.

Back in 1964, Nelson Mandela was one of eight men accused of conspiracy and sabotage in the notorious Rivonia trial, named after a suburb of Johannesburg where African National Congress (ANC) leaders had their secret headquarters in a farmhouse.

In an electrifying speech from the dock at the beginning of his defence, Mandela told the court: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live, and to see realised. But my lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Passing sentence, apartheid judge Justice de Wet compared the convicted men’s crime to high treason but said that after careful consideration he had decided not to impose “the supreme penalty.” Mandela was sent to prison for life.

Margaret Thatcher and many British Tories thought the judge had been too lenient. They called for Mandela to be hanged. Present House of Commons’s Speaker John Bercow led a Tory student campaign under the slogan “Hang Nelson Mandela.”

Mandela served the first 18 years of his sentence in the notorious maximum-security prison on Robben Island. When they first landed on the island a warder greeted Mandela and his ANC comrades with these words, “This is the island. This is where you will die.”

The prisoners faced a harsh regime in a new cell block specially constructed for political prisoners. Each had a single cell just 7ft square around a concrete courtyard, with a slop bucket. No books or reading materials were allowed, although this rule would eventually be relaxed a little.

Hard labour in the baking hot quarry on the island was hell. The white-hot sun reflecting of the bleached limestone nearly blinded Mandela.

In his prison cell he secretly worked on the first part of what would become his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. ANC comrades helped him hide draft pages from the guards.

In 1982 he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai, Cape Town.

From there, on December 9 1988, Mandela was moved to the Victor Verster Prison, now renamed the Drakenstein Correctional Centre.

Already the apartheid government, running scared and aware that their time was up, needed to hold negotiations with the man who, despite having spent the last 27 years in prison, was clearly the leader of the South African people.

For those negotiations Mandela lived in a small cottage inside the prison’s farm compound. President FW De Klerk sent high-ranking ministers and civil servants to talk with Mandela.

He was incarcerated there for another 14 months until finally he was taken to meet and talk with De Klerk himself. The two discussed arrangements for Mandela’s release.

Just after 4pm on February 11 1990 the date set by De Klerk, Mandela, then aged 71, walked free. One hand held the hand of his wife Winnie. The other was raised in the clenched fist of an ANC victory salute.

At that moment, as the camera flashes went off to record the moment, Mandela switched from being a symbol of the oppressed to the global symbol of courage and freedom that would define the rest of his life.

After his release Mandela would live for almost another quarter-century. He became president of a new South Africa, his beloved rainbow nation.

It was a long journey from imprisoned freedom fighter branded as a terrorist to one of the world’s greatest ever leaders.

Like so many important journeys this one started with a single step and a short walk through the gates of Victor Verster Prison 25 years ago this weekend.

FW de Klerk’s legacy in question on anniversary of Mandela’s release. South Africa’s last white president has been praised for his role in ending apartheid but questions linger over atrocities committed on his watch: here.

British actor Richard Attenborough helped honour Nelson Mandela


This video is called BBC News – Filmmaker Richard Attenborough dies at 90.

By Will Stone in Britain:

Tuesday 26th August 2014

Tributes pour in for progressive actor who died aged 90

BELOVED actor Richard Attenborough was remembered yesterday for his “determination and courage” in helping to erect the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square.

The award-winning star, described as a “titan of British cinema” by film academy Bafta and famed for his roles in blockbusters Jurassic Park, Gandhi and The Great Escape, died at lunchtime on Sunday at the age of 90.

But left groups remembered his achievements off the screen too.

Jude Woodward, former culture and creative industries advisor at City Hall under Ken Livingstone, told the Star that few have mentioned Attenborough’s “irascible” nature, which she believed helped make sure the bronze statue of South Africa’s former president and anti-apartheid activist was built.

Mr Attenborough helped set up a fund for the statue with the widow of the late anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods, who originally came up with the idea and received approval from Mandela in 2001.

“He was absolutely determined,” she said, recalling that they had initially battled to get the nine-foot statue put up outside the High Commission of South Africa in Trafalgar Square.

However Westminster Council rejected the planning application on the grounds its location would disrupt events in the area.

After much discussion the council finally agreed to erect the £400,000 sculpture, designed by Ian Walters, in Parliament Square alongside the statues of other iconic figures including Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Disraeli.

This video from London, England is called Nelson Mandela‘s speech at the unveiling of his statue.

Mandela himself attended the unveiling of the sculpture in 2007, six years after it was first approved, and the statue is still the only one of a black person in the square.

Ms Woodward said that it was “a real achievement” and a “right and fitting legacy” to Mandela that the statue was erected in his lifetime.

Describing Mr Attenborough, she added: “If things got in his way he would not brook opposition. He was absolutely determined there would be a tribute to Mandela and that it would be erected while he was living.”

Also paying tribute, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “The death of Richard Attenborough is a sad day for the film world and the Labour movement. He and his work will be remembered.”

BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill added: “the world has lost a very, very special person.”

Nelson Mandela remembered in Scotland


This video is called Nelson Mandela‘s first TV interview in 1961 by ITN reporter Brian Widlake.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Mandela‘s granddaughter thanks Glaswegian supporters

Saturday 19th July 2014

NELSON Mandela’s granddaughter had a simple message for Glaswegians yesterday as Scotland marked the late statesman’s birthday — thank you.

Tukwini Mandela last night led a Mandela Day remembrance ceremony on Glasgow’s Nelson Mandela Place, pointedly renamed in 1988 to the annoyance of South African consulate staff who worked there.

Ms Mandela told reporters that it was a bittersweet anniversary.

But she was grateful to the people of Glasgow: “I know that Glasgow was one of the first cities that awarded my grandfather the keys to the city.

“It galvanised a lot of the European cities to pay attention to what was going on in South Africa,” she said.

The icon of black liberation spent nearly three decades as a political prisoner under South Africa’s white supremacist regime before international solidarity campaigns forced his release.

Glasgow’s decision to grant “the freedom of the city” in 1981 brought vilification in the Establishment press, portraying the gesture as consorting with a terrorist.

But Dundee and Aberdeen soon followed suit and by 1990 the Establishment press was hailing his release as the end of a repressive era.

‘Israel supported Mandela, ANC in 1960s, but stopped doing so in 1970s’: here.

FBI still spied on Mandela after release from prison


This video from South Africa is called Nelson Mandela‘s Life Story.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

FBI monitored Nelson Mandela in 1990s over perceived communist threat

Previously classified documents show federal agents continued to monitor Mandela and ANC even after his release from prison

Ed Pilkington in New York

Thursday 10 July 2014 18.10 BST

The FBI monitored the interactions between Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress and leftwing groups in the US through the 1980s and 1990s as part of its ongoing investigations into what the bureau deemed to be the communist threat to US national security, new documents reveal.

The batch of 36 pages of previously classified documents, extracted from the FBI under freedom of information laws, show that federal agents continued to monitor Mandela’s and the ANC’s connections within the US even after the legendary South African leader was released from prison in February 1990. The bureau monitored meetings between Mandela and other world leaders, tracked the movements of senior ANC officials as they travelled across the US, and kept a close eye on the anti-apartheid activities of the Communist Party USA (CP-USA).

The declassified documents are marked “secret” under recognised codes for domestic and foreign counter-intelligence investigations. They include a record kept by federal agents of a meeting in Namibia just a month after Mandela’s release from jail between him and the then president of Yugoslavia, Janez Drnovsek. The record notes that a transcript of the proceedings was sent in Serbo-Croat to the FBI’s Cleveland office.

Another document records the FBI’s decision in June 1990, four months after Mandela was set free, to send an informant from Philadelphia to New York to snoop on a meeting that the bureau thought was about to take place between Mandela and Puerto Rican independence activists. “Information contained in this communication is extremely singular in nature and must not be disseminated outside the FBI or existing terrorism task forces,” it stated.

The newly declassified records are the second batch relating to FBI monitoring of Mandela to be obtained by Ryan Shapiro, a freedom of information expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the first set of documents, made public in May, it was disclosed that the bureau had used a confidential informant to gain an inside track on Mandela’s first visit to America in June 1990.

The new batch suggests that the FBI continued to see Mandela and the ANC through a paranoid cold war lens even after the fall of the Berlin Wall and after Mandela had emerged as one of the great democratic figureheads. The bureau’s obsession with categorising Mandela as a threat to domestic national security reached such a pitch that even elements within the FBI were driven to question the bureau’s prevailing analysis.

In August 1990, the FBI’s Chicago field office wrote a secret memo that highlighted the historical ignorance of its sister branch in New York which had classed the ANC as a “known Soviet front group”. The memo complained that “our description of the ANC as a Soviet front is an over-simplification which fails to recognize the complex and paradoxical nature of that particular organization (which was, of course, founded before the Russian revolution).”

Despite such enlightened interventions, the FBI carried on investigating links between the ANC and anti-apartheid and anti-racist groups in the US over many years. In 1984, federal agents kept watch over a senior ANC official, Makhenkesi Stofile, as he made a tour of the US meeting anti-apartheid groups. It also kept records of the involvement of Democratic Congress representatives in the Free Nelson Mandela campaign.

“The documents reveal that, just as it did in the 1950s and 60s with Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, the FBI aggressively investigated the US and South African anti-apartheid movements as communist plots imperiling American security,” Shapiro said.

Many of the documents are heavily redacted, and Shapiro said he is now pressing for release of the complete uncensored records. He is also continuing to sue the CIA, National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency for all their paperwork on Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement.

Just 60 years ago, in the summer of 1954, South Africa’s prime minister and architect of apartheid Daniel Francois Malan and his ultra-racist National Party government had a real irritant and they needed to get rid of it. The thorn in their side was Sophiatown, the multiracial cultural suburb of Johannesburg that, more than anywhere else, showed up the barrenness and nonsense of the obscene apartheid system: here.

Seattle Times, Associated Press blast FBI for fake article to snare bomb suspect. The paper expressed anger at the agency, which created a mock article on a fake Web page in an effort to locate and arrest a minor who made threats against a Washington school in 2007. The ploy worked, but the newspaper claims the FBI ‘misappropriated’ the paper’s name and put its reputation ‘at peril’: here.

1971: Johanna Hamilton documentary reveals how citizen burglars broke into FBI office and exposed huge abuse and public surveillance: here.

Nelson Mandela, fifty years after apartheid kangaroo court trial


This video is called Nelson Mandela – Full Speech At Start Rivonia Trial (20 April 1964).

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The men of Rivonia

Thursday 12th June 2014

PETER FROST salutes Mandela and his comrades who were sentenced by the racist apartheid state 50 years ago

June 12 1964, half a century ago today, was one of the darkest days in the history of the liberation struggle in South Africa.

It seemed like the forces of racism and reaction were about to achieve their final victory.

Ten members of the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party had finished an eight-month trial and had been handed down long jail sentences.

They were Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni.

Two of the accused, Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein and James Kantor, were acquitted.

Those in the dock covered the entire spectrum of what would become the South African “rainbow nation.”

Goldberg and Bernstein were white Jews, Kathrada was Indian and Mhlaba, Mbeki and Motsoaledi were black from the Xhosa tribe. Sisulu’s mother was Xhosa and his father was European.

Mandela came from the Xhosa-speaking Thembu tribe.

The Rivonia trial was essentially a crude mechanism through which the white apartheid government hoped to destroy or silence the ANC. It failed.

The ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela, who was already in Johannesburg’s Fort prison serving a five-year sentence for inciting workers to strike and leaving the country illegally, were found guilty and given long prison sentences.

Leading the defence team was the distinguished Afrikaner lawyer Bram Fischer, assisted by Harry Schwarz, Joel Joffe, Arthur Chaskalson, George Bizos and Harold Hanson.

The team of Rivonia defence lawyers were unable to see the accused until two days before the trial opened on October 9.

At the end of October another one of the accused, Bob Hepple, left the dock. Under pressure he had agreed to testify for the prosecution. In fact he never did. ANC comrades smuggled him out of the country.

The charges against all defendants were both broad and vague: recruiting persons for training in the preparation and use of explosives and in guerilla warfare for the purpose of violent revolution and committing acts of sabotage; conspiring to commit these acts and to aid foreign military units when they invaded the republic; acting in these ways to further the objects of communism; and soliciting and receiving money for these purposes from sympathisers outside South Africa.

Mandela and seven other defendants were found guilty and given life sentences, much to the disappointment of the South African government and also many British Conservatives like Margaret Thatcher and today’s Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow who publicly demanded they all be hung.

The accused were sent to Robben Island Prison. Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Central Prison’s security wing for white political prisoners — the only one of its kind in South Africa. Apartheid’s segregation even applied to prisons. He served 22 years.

Not long after the trial, defence lawyer Bram Fischer was arrested and himself put on trial for “supporting communism.”

Many believe the state went for Fischer because the defendants in the trial had not received the death penalty. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and was only released when he became critically ill.

Mandela, as we now know, served 27 years, was released and became president of the South African nation.

His speech from the dock was to prove an inspiration to a whole generation both in South Africa and the rest of the world as they fought and eventually ended apartheid.

Finally the battle against apartheid was won, the obscene system was cast into the dustbin of history and with it the names, reputations and memories of the government ministers, judges, police spies, prosecution lawyers, prison officers and state witnesses who fixed the trial.

On the other hand the memories of Mandela and the other men of Rivonia still burn bright in all our memories and still inspire all those who are fighting for a better, more equal world today in Africa and beyond.