My comments won’t do justice to how amazing this man is and to his incredible story. Am so glad I took the time to read and learn more about the recent history of South Africa from one of its most important figures. Very well-written and readable.

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Dates 30 April 2013 – 12 May 2013
Time spent reading 7 hours, 25 minutes
Highlights 40
Comments 12
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After a time in solitary, I relished the company even of the insects in my cell, and found myself on the verge of initiating conversations with a cockroach.

Jonas Hjalmar Blom Jonas Hjalmar Blom

Mandela is sometimes mentioned in positive psychology while illustrating the ability to shift perspective. This is truly a good example of that!

The four of us were shackled together and put in a windowless van that contained only a sanitary bucket. We drove all night to Cape Town, and arrived at the city’s docks in the late afternoon. It is not an easy or pleasant task for men shackled together to use a sanitary bucket in a moving van.

We were not concerned with getting off or lessening our punishment, but with making the trial strengthen the cause for which we were all struggling - at whatever cost to ourselves. We would not defend ourselves in a legal sense so much as in a moral sense.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

A definition of bravery and strength given they were facing the death sentence.

Hanson told Bram, ‘If Mandela reads this in court they will take him straight out to the back of the courthouse and string him up.’ That confirmed Bram’s anxieties and he came to me the next day and urged me to modify the speech. I felt we were likely to hang no matter what we said, so we might as well say what we truly believed.

Whites, I said, often claimed that Africans in South Africa were better off than Africans in the rest of the continent. Our complaint, I said, was not that we were poor by comparison with the people in the rest of Africa, but that we were poor by comparison with the whites in our country, and that we were prevented by legislation from righting that imbalance.

Two days before Judge de Wet was due to give his decision, the UN Security Council (with four abstentions, including Great Britain and the United States) urged the South African government to end the trial and grant amnesty to the defendants.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Sometimes my country is an embarrassment. Particularly in its dealings at the UN.

I was prepared for the death penalty. To be truly prepared for something, one must actually expect it. One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen. We were all prepared, not because we were brave but because we were realistic. I thought of the line from Shakespeare: ‘Be absolute for death; for either death or life shall be the sweeter.’

We were permitted to write only to our immediate families, and just one letter of five hundred words every six months.

Ahmed Kathrada once said that in prison the minutes can seem like years, but the years go by like minutes. An afternoon pounding rocks in the courtyard might seem like forever, but suddenly it is the end of the year, and you do not know where all the months went.

Receiving books at all was often a challenge. You might make an application to a South African library for a book on contract law. They would process your request and then send you the book by post. But because of the vagaries of the mail system, the remoteness of the island and the often deliberate slowness of the censors, the book would reach you after the date by which it needed to be returned. If the date had passed, the warders would typically send the book back without even showing it to you. Given the nature of the system, you might receive a late fine without ever having received the book.

Strong convictions are the secret of surviving deprivation; your spirit can be full even when your stomach is empty.

‘Let your courage rise with danger.’

A mother’s death causes a man to look back on and evaluate his own life.

Although I often urged others not to worry about what they could not control, I was unable to take my own advice.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I know how this feels.

Stern and God-fearing, the Afrikaner takes his religion seriously.

Badenhorst returned my glance and called out, ‘Mandela, Jy moet jou vinger uit jou gat trek’ (‘You must pull your finger out of your arse’). I did not care for this expression at all

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Not caring sounds like an understatement!

It was a useful reminder that all men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency, and that if their hearts are touched, they are capable of changing. Ultimately, Badenhorst was not evil; his inhumanity had been foisted upon him by an inhuman system. He behaved like a brute because he was rewarded for brutish behaviour.

The ANC had decided to personalize the quest for our release by centring the campaign on a single figure. There is no doubt that the millions of people who subsequently became supporters of this campaign had no idea of precisely who Nelson Mandela was. (I am told that when ‘Free Mandela’ posters went up in London, most young people thought my Christian name was ‘Free’.)

There was a commotion in the corridor when the other men learned we were leaving, but we had no time to say a proper good-bye to our comrades of many years. This is another one of the indignities of prison. The bonds of friendship and loyalty with other prisoners count for nothing with the authorities.

It had white concrete walls about twelve feet high, so that we could see only the sky, except in one corner where we could make out the ridges of the Constantiaberg mountains, in particular a section known as the Elephant’s Eye. I sometimes thought of this bit of mountain as the tip of the iceberg of the rest of the world.

He then went outside to see my wife and daughter and asked to speak to Winnie privately. Winnie actually got a fright when Gregory took her aside, thinking that I was perhaps ill. But Gregory escorted her around the door and before either of us knew it, we were in the same room and in each other’s arms. I kissed and held my wife for the first time in all these many years. It was a moment I had dreamed about a thousand times. It was as if I were still dreaming. I held her to me for what seemed like an eternity. We were still and silent except for the sound of our hearts. I did not want to let go of her at all, but I broke free and embraced my daughter and then took her child onto my lap. It had been twenty-one years since I had even touched my wife’s hand.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Twenty-one years!

I told them that the conditions in which Martin Luther King struggled were totally different from my own: the United States was a democracy with constitutional guarantees of equal rights that protected non-violent protest (though there was still prejudice against blacks); South Africa was a police state with a constitution that enshrined inequality and an army that responded to non-violence with force.

I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom. Too many have died since I went to prison. Too many have suffered for the love of freedom. I owe it to their widows, to their orphans, to their mothers and to their fathers who have grieved and wept for them. Not only I have suffered during these long, lonely, wasted years. I am not less life-loving than you are. But I cannot sell my birthright, nor am I prepared to sell the birthright of the people to be free . . .

Some of the younger warders took me quite far afield, and we would walk on the beach and even stop at a café and have tea. At such places I often tried to see if people recognized me, but no one ever did; the last published picture of me had been taken in 1962.

The only thing spoiling the idyllic picture was that the walls were topped with razor wire

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

This now seems to be typical of the majority of houses in Johannesburg.

I also had visits from colleagues of mine from Robben Island, including Terror Lekota and Tokyo Sexwale

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Those are quite some names!

Henrik Berggren Henrik Berggren

Haha, truly epic!

As so often happens in life, the momentousness of an occasion is lost in the welter of a thousand details.

When a television crew thrust a long, dark and furry object at me, I recoiled slightly, wondering if it were some newfangled weapon developed while I was in prison. Winnie informed me that it was a microphone.

About a quarter of a mile in front of the gate, the car slowed to a stop and Winnie and I got out and began to walk towards the prison gate.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

For this bit, see Amazing.

They came from all over the world, from presidents and prime ministers, but I remember one in particular from a white Cape Town housewife that amused me greatly. It read: ‘I am very glad that you are free, and that you are back among your friends and family, but your speech yesterday was very boring.’

I was scheduled to hold a press conference the afternoon after my release

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

For this bit, see

any house in which a man is free is a castle when compared with even the plushest prison.

I visited the area the next day and witnessed scenes I have never before seen and hope never to see again. At the morgue were bodies of people who had been hacked to death; a woman had both her breasts cut off with a machete. Whoever these killers were, they were animals.

The murder was an act of mad desperation, an attempt to derail the negotiation process. I was asked to speak on the SABC that night to address the nation. In this instance, it was the ANC, not the government, that sought to calm the people.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I read elsewhere that this was the moment when Mandela effectively became the leader of the nation, prior to any elections – it was he and not de Klerk that went on television to address the country.

Even during the bleakest years on Robben Island, Amnesty International would not campaign for us on the ground that we had pursued an armed struggle, and their organization would not represent anyone who had embraced violence.

I never sought to undermine Mr de Klerk, for the practical reason that the weaker he was, the weaker the negotiations process. To make peace with an enemy, one must work with that enemy, and that enemy becomes your partner.

Some in the ANC were disappointed that we did not cross the two-thirds threshold, but I was not one of them. In fact I was relieved; had we won two-thirds of the vote and been able to write a constitution unfettered by input from others, people would argue that we had created an ANC constitution, not a South African constitution. I wanted a true government of national unity.

The policy of apartheid created a deep and lasting wound in my country and my people. All of us will spend many years, if not generations, recovering from that profound hurt.

The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.