Immensely readable, very well-written. Will give my full verdict after volume 2!

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Dates 21 April 2013 – 30 April 2013
Time spent reading 9 hours, 40 minutes
Highlights 41
Comments 7
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I am a member of the Madiba clan, named after a Thembu chief who ruled in the Transkei in the eighteenth century. I am often addressed as Madiba, my clan name, as a sign of respect.

In African culture, the sons and daughters of one’s aunts or uncles are considered brothers and sisters, not cousins. We do not make the same distinctions among relations practised by whites. We have no half-brothers or half-sisters. My mother’s sister is my mother; my uncle’s son is my brother; my brother’s child is my son, my daughter.

The education I received was a British education, in which British ideas, British culture and British institutions were automatically assumed to be superior. There was no such thing as African culture.

Children are often the least sentimental of creatures, especially if they are absorbed in some new pleasure.

The white man was hungry and greedy for land, and the black man shared the land with him as they shared the air and water; land was not for man to possess. But the white man took the land as you might seize another man’s horse.

Miners had a mystique; to be a miner meant to be strong and daring: the ideal of manhood. Much later, I realized that it was the exaggerated tales of boys like Banabakhe that caused so many young men to run away to work in the mines of Johannesburg, where they often lost their health and their lives.

Circumcision is a trial of bravery and stoicism; no anaesthetic is used; a man must suffer in silence.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Crikey. Has me squirming as I read this.

This was an all too typical South African story. It was not lack of ability that limited my people, but lack of opportunity.

There is nothing magical about a gold mine.

Even though I was later to live in Orlando, a small section of Soweto, for a far longer period than I did in Alexandra, I always regarded Alexandra Township as a home where I had no specific house, and Orlando as a place where I had a house but no home.

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

‛Education is all well and good,’ Gaur said, ‛but if we are to depend on education, we will wait a thousand years for our freedom. We are poor, we have few teachers and even fewer schools. We do not even have the power to educate ourselves.’

The English-speaking universities of South Africa were great incubators of liberal values. It was a tribute to these institutions that they allowed black students. For the Afrikaans universities, such a thing was unthinkable.

To be an African in South Africa means that one is politicized from the moment of one’s birth, whether one acknowledges it or not.

I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Birth of a freedom fighter.

The Day of Protest boosted our morale, made us realize our strength and sent a warning to the Malan government that we would not remain passive in the face of apartheid. 26 June has since become a landmark day in the freedom struggle, and within the liberation movement it is observed as Freedom Day.

The arbitrary and meaningless tests to decide black from Coloured or Coloured from white often resulted in tragic cases where members of the same family were classified differently, all depending on whether one child had a lighter or darker complexion. Where one was allowed to live and work could rest on such absurd distinctions as the curl of one’s hair or the size of one’s lips.

6 April is the day white South Africans annually commemorate as the founding of their country - and Africans revile as the beginning of three hundred years of enslavement.

Banning was a legal order by the government, and generally entailed forced resignation from indicated organizations, and restriction from attending gatherings of any kind. It was a kind of walking imprisonment. To ban a person, the government required no proof, offered no charges; the minister of justice simply declared it so.

‛Who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately and modestly at a closed and barred door?’

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Chief Albert Luthuli.

it was a crime to walk through a Whites Only door, a crime to ride a Whites Only bus, a crime to use a Whites Only drinking fountain, a crime to walk on a Whites Only beach, a crime to be on the streets after 11 p.m., a crime not to have a pass book and a crime to have the wrong signature in that book, a crime to be unemployed and a crime to be employed in the wrong place, a crime to live in certain places and a crime to have no place to live.

In Johannesburg, the Western Areas Removal scheme meant the evacuation of Sophiatown, Martindale and Newclare, with a collective population that was somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000. In 1953, the Nationalist government had purchased a tract of land called Meadowlands, thirteen miles from the city. People were to be resettled there in seven different ‛ethnic groups’. The excuse given by the government was slum clearance, a smokescreen for the government policy that regarded all urban areas as white areas where Africans were temporary residents.

In India, Gandhi had been dealing with a foreign power that ultimately was more realistic and far-sighted. That was not the case with the Afrikaners in South Africa. Non-violent passive resistance is effective as long as your opposition adheres to the same rules as you do. But if peaceful protest is met with violence, its efficacy is at an end. For me, non-violence was not a moral principle but a strategy; there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.

A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a certain point, one can only fight fire with fire.

I wondered - not for the first time - whether one was ever justified in neglecting the welfare of one’s own family in order to fight for the welfare of others. Can there be anything more important than looking after one’s ageing mother? Is politics merely a pretext for shirking one’s responsibilities, an excuse for not being able to provide in the way one wanted?

While I was walking in the city one day, I noticed a white woman in the gutter gnawing on some fish bones.

The idea was to preserve the status quo where three million whites owned 87 per cent of the land, and relegate the eight million Africans to the remaining 13 per cent.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I can’t believe how sparsely-populated South Africa was. Did this help in allowing the British and Dutch to invade?

It is not pleasant to be arrested in front of one’s children, even though one knows that what one is doing is right.

It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones - and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals.

Our communal cell became a kind of convention for far-flung freedom fighters. Many of us had been living under severe restrictions, making it illegal for us to meet and talk. Now, our enemy had gathered us all under one roof for what became the largest and longest unbanned meeting of the Congress Alliance in years. Younger leaders met older leaders they had only read about. Men from Natal mingled with leaders from the Transvaal. We revelled in the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences for two weeks while we awaited trial.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

A fantastic side-effect of an awful situation.

In addition to its symbolic effect, the cage cut us off from communication with our lawyers, who were not permitted to enter. One of my colleagues scribbled on a piece of paper, which he then posted on the side of the cage: ‛Dangerous. Please Do Not Feed’.

At 7.15 we were taken into a tiny cell with a single drainage hole in the floor which could be flushed only from the outside. We were given no blankets, no food, no mats and no toilet paper. The hole regularly became blocked and the stench in the room was insufferable.

At 6 p.m. we received sleeping-mats and blankets. I do not think words can do justice to a description of the foulness and filthiness of this bedding. The blankets were encrusted with dried blood and vomit, ridden with lice, vermin and cockroaches, and reeked with a stench that actually competed with the stink of the drain.

For breakfast, Africans, Indians and Coloureds received the same quantities, except that Indians and Coloureds received a half-teaspoonful of sugar, which we did not. For supper, the diets were the same, except that Indians and Coloureds received four ounces of bread while we received none. This latter distinction was made on the curious premise that Africans did not naturally like bread, which was a more sophisticated or ‛Western’ taste.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran


During the Treason Trial, there were no examples of individuals being isolated, beaten and tortured in order to elicit information. All of those things became commonplace shortly thereafter.

When you question a man’s integrity, you can expect a fight.

I have chosen this course which is more difficult and which entails more risk and hardship than sitting in gaol. I have had to separate myself from my dear wife and children, from my mother and sisters, to live as an outlaw in my own land. I have had to close my business, to abandon my profession and live in poverty, as many of my people are doing . . . I shall fight the Government side by side with you, inch by inch, and mile by mile, until victory is won. What are you going to do? Will you come along with us, or are you going to co-operate with the Government in its efforts to suppress the claims and aspirations of your own people? Are you going to remain silent and neutral in a matter of life and death to my people, to our people? For my own part I have made my choice. I will not leave South Africa, nor will I surrender. Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.

a battalion of sprightly baboons

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

How delightful!

As I was boarding the plane I saw that the pilot was black. I had never seen a black pilot before, and the instant I did I had to quell my panic. How could a black man fly a plane? But a moment later I caught myself: I had fallen into the apartheid mind-set, thinking Africans were inferior and that flying was a white man’s job. I sat back in my seat, and chided myself for such thoughts.

My arrest had been discovered by my friends; Fatima Meer brought some food to the jail and I shared it with the two officers in the car. We even stopped at Volksrust, a town along the way, and they allowed me to take a brief walk to stretch my legs. I did not contemplate escape when people were kind to me; I did not want to take advantage of the trust they placed in me.

More powerful than my fear of the dreadful conditions to which I might be subjected in prison is my hatred for the dreadful conditions to which my people are subjected outside prison throughout this country.