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Introduction by Nelson Mandela

The Birth of Apartheid

The Underground Movement

Robben Island

State of Emergency


Mandela: An Audio History is the award-winning radio series documenting the struggle against apartheid through intimate first-person accounts of Nelson Mandela himself, as well as those who fought with him, and against him. Next »

In the 1940s, Nelson Mandela was one of thousands of blacks who flocked to Johannesburg in search of work. A new political party came into power with a new idea: the separation of whites and blacks. Apartheid was born, and along with it a half-century of struggle to achieve democracy in South Africa. Next »

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MANDELA: An Audio History

Part 1: THE BIRTH OF APARTHEID (1944-1960)

DESMOND TUTU: This isDesmond Tutu. In 1994, the world watched as millions of South Africans cast their ballots in our country's first fully democratic election. After all the votes were counted, Nelson Mandela was President of a new South Africa. Mandela's journey, from freedom fighter to President, is one of the most dramatic stories of our lifetime. But many have never heard the story from those of us who lived and struggled in South Africa in the days of hatred, and bigotry, and violence. So here, then, is Mandela: An Audio History.

NEWSREEL: The program that follows is about the people of South Africa. 1935... 1940... 1945... A nation develops into the premiere industrial power on the African continent.

NEWSREEL 2: The Golden City: South Africa's Johannesburg. Millions of pounds of gold come out of Joburg each year. With this wealth, the people of the city live well and happily. Truly, this is the finest of all the world's golden cities.

EDDIE DANIELS, political activist: As a white citizen you had social status; you had beautiful schools, parks — everything you desire. You had one of the highest standards of living in the world. Blacks were just pushed out.

DENNIS GOLDBERG, political activist: The population of South Africa was about ten million. Two million and a bit were whites and dominated everything. There were gold mines and diamond mines with huge economic potential, based on very cheap black labor.

HELEN SUZMAN, former opposition Member of Parliament: It was a master-servant relationship. We had domestic staff who were black, but they lived in their own quarters. They were the nannies and the cleaners and the gardeners.

SONNY VENKATRATHNAM, political activist: We were taught that the whites were superior people. And we were told when we were young that if you do good in this life, your next life will become better. I remember promising myself that I'm gonna be a good little boy, so that in the next life I would be a white person. That was my goal in life, and I determined to be a good boy.


NELSON MANDELA: My name is Nelson Mandela. I remember when I arrived in Johannesburg in the early forties. The fear, you know, of the power of the white man inhibited us a great deal. And the government was becoming very tough.

NEWSREEL: News from Government House, Pretoria, where South Africa's newly elected Prime Minister, Dr. Malan, was sworn in at the beginning of a new chapter in South Africa's history…

DULLAH OMAR, political activist: At the time of the 1948 elections, The Nationalist Party, under D.F. Malan, preached what they called baasskap. Baasskap is an Afrikaans word to express white domination.

PRIME MINISTER D.F. MALAN SPEECH (ARCHIVAL): The color question is rapidly increasing in seriousness and urgency. I consider apartheid — that's the separation policy — to be South Africa's last chance to remain a white man's country.

HELEN SUZMAN: The appeal was survival. The appeal was: we are a small minority on a black continent, and we number so many millions, and the black number X times that many millions. If we are to survive in South Africa — here we are, and we've been here since 1652, we have got to survive — the way to survive is to maintain domination. Simple as that.

NELSON MANDELA: I remember I came out of Park Station that morning and bought a newspaper and learned that the National Party had won. Comrade Oliver Tambo said, "Well, I like this, because we now know that we have an enemy in power. And I think we are going to have a better opportunity of mobilizing our people." So when they came into power, it became clear we were going to be put under a very severe test.

GOVERNMENT MINISTER (ARCHIVAL) In these circumstances, the government has decided on the following measures. A prohibiton on meetings...

DULLAH OMAR: And immediately after 1948, the apartheid government announced that it was introducing a new series of laws.

HELEN SUZMAN: The Group Areas Act; there was an Immorality Act so that you couldn't have sexual relations across the color line; race classification, which laid down for all time your color and your category — white, colored, Indian, or black. So all these things came in, one after the other.

SONNY VENKATRATHNAM: Where you lived, how you lived, what educational system you're going to go through, the type of jobs you got, where you were going to be buried. Everything from birth to death was determined after the apartheid government came into power.

GOVERNMENT MINISTER (ARCHIVAL): It lays a tremendous responsibility upon those people who govern the country. A responsibility which the white man feels of his duty to help these underdeveloped people who are not capable of governing themselves, who would fall to pieces if we were not there to look after their interests.


GOVERNMENT NEWSREEL: The colored man must always carry these passes. Photographs are taken at the offices of the Department of Native Affairs. Daily, a large number turns up here for reference books. Each book contains the photograph of the owner, his name, race, and particulars of employment.

AHMED KATHRADA, political activist: They used this crude method of putting a pencil through your hair. If the pencil sticks, then you are black or African. If it falls off, you’ve got a chance of being classified colored.

GOVERNMENT NEWSREEL: Naturally, the officials who are employed here must have a thorough knowledge of Bantu customs and languages.


NTHATO MOTLANA, political activist: Each time you left your home you had to make sure you have a little book in your pocket. If you didn't have that piece of paper, some ignorant, stupid youngster in the police force could stop you and demand that you identify yourself. If you couldn't, they locked you up.


LUNGI SISULU, political activist: At nine o' clock, a big bell would ring. Dong... dong... And you knew that was for you, if you were black, to get out of the white city.


DOROTHY MASUKA, singer: Dr. Malan has got very strange rules. He is stopping me from doing that and this and the other, in my own land. And people in the street would start singing: "Dr. Malan..."

EDDIE DANIELS: In the 50s, the apartheid structure was tightening. The situation was becoming so much worse, you know.


NTHATO MOTLANA: The communities, they had been intimidated, cowed down. But we knew. The feeling among the vast majority of people was that this situation cannot continue. We must do something about it.

NEWSREEL: In Johannesburg, premiere city of South Africa, there was staged, last weekend, the first move that may lead to civil disobedience. Thousands of colored people went to attend a protest meeting called by the African National Congress. This is the most important African organization in the union. And it called on all colored people to protest against the racial segregation laws. A crowd of some thousands made their way to the meeting.

NELSON MANDELA: We now began to feel that the time had come for the emergence of a mass organization to go out into the highways and organize the masses of people.

LUNGI SISULU: You needed somebody to lead the people. You needed somebody who could make the people believe in the organization. Mandela had what it took to actually be out there in the front, leading the movement.

NEWSREEL: Since then, the Congress leaders have announced that they will decide later this month whether to launch a civil disobedience campaign. This would urge all colored people to break the unjust laws and to court arrest.

NTHATO MOTLANA: The first thing we did was the Defiance Campaign of 1952, when the ANC decided that all the unjust laws would simply be broken.


NTHATO MOTLANA: You know to be part of that kind of movement, to defy the laws and be arrested and — Christ, it was exciting. We knew that we could do something.

NELSON MANDELA: And for 8,500 people to be arrested, at the time in 1952, was no small achievement. The mood had been created that our struggle was reaching a dimension where it could not be crushed.


AHMED KATHRADA: In 1960, on the 21st of March, the PAC (Pan African Congress) had made preparations to launch an anti-pass campaign.

LUNGI SISULU: On this particular day, word went out that all passbooks must be burned — to light up these passes and burn them. The slogan was, "Away with the passes!" The atmosphere was electric. To join in the bonfire, you know, I remember that vividly. As a kid, you always love to see fire. It was fun. But, of course, later in the day we heard…news came over the radio…

GOVERNMENT NEWSCAST: Here is a special announcement. The Governor General has proclaimed a state of emergency in about 80 of the 300 magisterial districts…


NEWSCAST (WALTER CRONKITE): Several hundred natives gathered peaceably to protest the Pass Laws. Police, mounted on tanks, opened fire. 69 natives were killed, 176 wounded. Most of the victims were shot in the back. Some of the dead were children, women, and elderly men.

LUNGI SISULU: Here were people just marching to the police station to hand over a passbook. And the police opened fire on them. For the first time, it showed the world how brutal the apartheid system could be.

GOVERNMENT NEWSCAST: The Prime Minister assured the country that law and order would be maintained. If necessary, the Defense Force would be called in.

DENNIS GOLDBERG: There was a mood among people, following the Sharpeville massacre, that we had to start dealing with the armed forces of the state; the armed might of the apartheid state.


EDDIE DANIELS: Mr. Mandela then made a statement saying, "How do we combat such a brutal foe? We must consider other methods, other means." The other methods and means was violence. We felt, you know, it just can't continue.


"WELELE" (sung in Xhosa):

Mandela, don't let the whites undermine us.


People are dying.

We sleep in the mountains.

In 1960, with the African National Congress banned, the movement went underground. Faced with increased government crackdown, Mandela launched Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a military wing of the ANC, and the armed struggle began. Two years later, he was arrested and charged with high treason. Mandela and eight others are sentenced to life in prison. Next »

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DESMOND TUTU: In the 1950's, South Africa began one of the most extreme experiments in racial separation the world had ever seen. As the repression grew worse, Nelson Mandela and his comrades decided they must use new tactics to break the white domination of the country. Here is part two of Mandela: An Audio History.


GOVERNMENT NEWSREEL: The Prime Minister, Dr. H.F. Verwoerd, and Mrs. Verwoerd arrive for the Republic Festival Parade at the Voortrekker Monument.

ALLISTER SPARKS, journalist: Hendrik Verwoerd was generally regarded as the chief architect of this grand apartheid policy. It was his idea, in the late fifties, to separate the country into a white nation and a series of independent states for the various black tribes.

PRIME MINISTER VERWOERD (ARCHIVAL): My friends, this Republic is part of the white man's domain in the world.


HELEN SUZMAN, former opposition Member of Parliament: When Dr. Verwoerd took over, there's no doubt there was a change. And he was an extremely impressive speaker, I must tell you. In fact, you used to listen to him speaking for three hours without a note, adding one thing after the other. And you sat there nodding your head like a zombie until it suddenly occurred to you it was all based on a false premise.

PRIME MINISTER VERWOERD (ARCHIVAL): Our policy is one which is called by the Afrikaans word, apartheid. It could much better be described as a policy of good neighborliness.


HELEN SUZMAN: He had convinced himself, and a large number of well-meaning Afrikaners, that there was nothing repressive about the system. It was simply separation. They had their areas, the whites had their areas. This is our only way of survival: we maintain the army, the police, the vote. And we keep it that way.


MIRIAM MAKEBA, singer: Watch out, Verwoerd! The black man will get you! Watch out, Verwoerd! The world sings with me.

EDDIE DANIELS, political activist: The government was powerful. The government was strong. And the laws were becoming far more stringent.

DENNIS GOLDBERG, political activist: Political activity was getting nowhere. In fact, the situation was getting worse. White South Africa and its government simply determined it would crush the struggle. And they tried.

NEWSREEL: Armored cars and armed police swooped down to the Nyanga township, ten miles from Cape Town, aided by spotting aircraft. Fifteen hundred natives were arrested and questioned, 162 were kept in prison.

DULLAH OMAR, political activist: There was a state of emergency in the 1960s. Thousands of people were arrested. Many were detained.

AHMED KATHRADA, political activist: The ANC had been declared illegal. So Oliver Tambo was sent out of the country and some of the other leaders followed. Mandela, it was decided, should stay in the country. And he carried on his work underground.

NELSON MANDELA: It was felt that somebody should go underground and lead the movement. I accepted the challenge.

AHMED KATHRADA: But one of the things he had is a beard, so it was well-known in fliers, on photographs, this man with his beard. It was a very nice little beard. And when he went underground, we thought the first thing he had to do is to shave off his beard. He wouldn't. He just refused. The only disguise he agreed to, he'd put on a cap and he'd wear overalls because now and then he acted as a chauffeur.


INTERVIEWER: I went to see a 42-year-old African lawyer, Nelson Mandela, the most dynamic leader in South Africa today. The police were hunting for him at the time, but African Nationalists had arranged for me to meet him at his hideout. He is still underground. This is Mandela's first television interview. I asked him what it was that the African really wanted.

NELSON MANDELA: The Africans require the franchise on the basis of one man, one vote. They want political independence.

INTERVIEWER: If Dr. Verwoerd's government doesn't give you the concessions you want some time soon, is there any likelihood of violence?

NELSON MANDELA: There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and non-violence against a government whose reply is only savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people. And I think the time has come for us to consider whether the methods which we have applied so far are adequate.


NELSON MANDELA: I had made a statement where I called for armed struggle. Naturally, there was a great deal of resistance from the leadership, but I believed that we were moving into that situation, because the government had left us with no other alternative.

JOE MATTHEWS, political activist: The adoption of an armed struggle, after a struggle that had been well known for its non-violent and peaceful character, was somewhat startling.

DENNIS GOLDBERG: The Ghandian concept, in our view, couldn't work in South Africa. In India, the British colonial administration could pack up and go home. But that would not happen in South Africa. There were, at the time, two or three million whites who were part of South Africa; they had been here so long. These people were not going home. So in the ANC we set about creating an underground, illegal fighting force to make sure that South Africans, and the world, would know what's going on.

JOE MATTHEWS: Mandela then started looking for a name. What are we going to call this movement? And he suggested the Xhosa name Umkhonto we Sizwe, which meant 'Spear of the Nation.' Umkhonto we Sizwe.


NEWSREEL: At the end of 1961, the bombing campaign started. Its targets: telephone poles, power supplies, post offices, telephone booths, and pass offices — objects, not people. The aim was to shock the government into negotiating.

NEWSREEL 2: One of their objects was to destroy records of the passes they detest having to carry.

DENNIS GOLDBERG: There were explosions, many in Johannesburg — power pylons, government pass offices. They weren't just random, callous explosions that just happened to be. There had to be an understanding by the masses of people that organized armed resistance had started. The only deaths were our own people who were careless with their explosives.

GOVERNMENT MINISTER (ARCHIVAL): As far as the government of South Africa is concerned, the breakdown of law and order in South Africa will not be tolerated under any circumstances whatsoever.

AHMED KATHRADA: We were branded terrorists by the whole western world. They would have nothing to do with us. As somebody once said: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.


DENNIS GOLDBERG: Of course it would have been naive for us to think we could stand in battle against an army, air force, navy, police force, reservists of 400,000 people. But if you don't have crazy dreams, you do nothing.


LUNGI SISULU, political activist: We don't care whether they arrest us, they torture us — we are prepared to fight for our freedom.

MAC MAHARAJ, political activist: We used to sing a song, "One stick, two sticks, six sticks of dynamite, we'll take the country the Castro way." Now remember, Castro's campaign was a very short campaign. Within a space of two years they had overrun Cuba. So here we were, the comrades, we were all singing this song, as if to say in six months time we would be free. In six months time we were languishing in prison.

AMINA CACHALIA, political activist: Mandela, he had addressed a meeting in Durban, he was coming back and the police stopped him. And they asked him what was his name, and he said David. And they said, you're under arrest, Mr. Mandela.


NEWSCAST: A remarkable demonstration by a crowd of several hundred outside the courthouse in Pretoria. Nelson Mandela, his wife you just saw, leader and founder of the sabotage movement, Spear of the Nation, and a leading member of the African National Congress, accused, with the others, of plotting sabotage to overthrow the South African government by force.


AHMED KATHRADA: There were eight of us in the trial. And from day one of our arrests, the police drummed it into our heads, "You are going to die. You are going to hang." And the first day the lawyer said, "Chaps, prepare for the worst." And that remained their attitude right through the trial.


PROSECUTOR (ARCHIVAL): Firstly, the state alleges the planned purpose thereof was to bring about chaos, disorder, and turmoil in a battle to be waged against the white man in this country.

GEORGE BIZOS, defense attorney: They were called terrorists. We knew there was no hope of getting an acquittal. The question was, "What do we do with the trial?"

NELSON MANDELA: Our approach was one of defiance, because we said, "It is the government that is a criminal and should be standing in the dock to face trial. We are not guilty."

PROSECUTOR (ARCHIVAL): That, my Lord, is the case for the State.

AHMED KATHRADA: When the defense case started, Mandela, he was going to be the first defense witness. The prosecutor, Dr. Yutar, he had prepared extensively to cross-examine Mandela and break him down. And they all got a shock when our lawyers announced that Mandela will not give evidence but he'll make a statement from the dock.


GEORGE BIZOS: The courtroom was absolutely packed. He stood up and he proceeded to deliver this speech.

NELSON MANDELA SPEECH AT TRIAL (ARCHIVAL): I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I know this sounds like revolution to the white in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white men fear democracy.

AHMED KATHRADA: It was a four-hour speech. But that last bit where he said, "These are the ideals for which I am prepared to die." Just that last bit…

DENNIS GOLDBERG: I knew what he was going to say, because we had all seen the speech. Everybody had made comments about it. And I knew he was going to say, in effect, "Hang me if you dare to, Mr. Judge." But only when he said it...

NELSON MANDELA SPEECH AT TRIAL (ARCHIVAL): I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for. But, my Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

DENNIS GOLDBERG: There was dead silence. Nobody said anything. Even the judge didn't know what to say. I knew it was a moment of history. He emerged then as a great leader.

JUSTICE NICOLAAS de WET (ARCHIVAL): Very well, the court will then adjourn.

NELSON MANDELA: The possibility of a death sentence, of course, worried me. And I remember we adjourned for lunch. It was a very hot day and a friendly Afrikaner warder asked me the question: “Mandela, what do you think is going to happen to you in this case?” I said to him, “Agh, they are going to hang us.” Now, I was really expecting some word of encouragement from him. And I thought he was going to say, “Agh man, you see, that can never happen.” But he became serious and then he said, “I think you're right, they're going to hang you.”


NEWSCAST: The next day, armed police massed an even greater force as Mr. Justice de Wet was passing sentence.

JUDGE (ARCHIVAL): I am by no means convinced that the motives of the accused were as altruistic as they wish the court to believe…

AHMED KATHRADA: When they said, "Stand up for your sentence," we thought, "Well, here it comes."

JUDGE (ARCHIVAL): I have decided not to impose the supreme penalty, which in a case like this would usually be the proper penalty for the crime. That is the only leniency I can show. The sentence in the case of all the accused will be one of life imprisonment.

DENNIS GOLDBERG: And, um... we laughed. We turned to each other and laughed because we expected to be hanged.

NEWSCAST: At the back entrance to Pretoria Court, large crowds gather to watch the accused being driven away to start their life sentences.


NEWSCAST: There have been growing protests from all over the world today of the sentence of life imprisonment passed in South Africa on Friday on this man, Nelson Mandela.

DENNIS GOLDBERG: Nelson Mandela did become the symbol of the struggle for liberation in South Africa. People could identify with Nelson Mandela: Nelson Mandela the lawyer, Nelson Mandela the hero, Nelson Mandela the handsome man. But it was the response to his Rivonia Trial speech, called throughout the world the 'I am prepared to die' speech, which somersaulted him — and the African National Congress, and the need to put an end to apartheid — into the world's consciousness.


NELSON MANDELA: As we were being flown to Robben Island, one tried to accept the reality that we may, in fact, spend years in prison. But we believed very strongly that we would not die in jail. We would return. But we stayed there for 27 years.


While Mandela and other political leaders languished in prison, the government cracked down. It seemed that resistance to apartheid had been crushed. But on June 16, 1976, a student uprising in Soweto sparked a new generation of activism. Next »

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Part 3: ROBBEN ISLAND (1964-1976) 

DESMOND TUTU: In June 1964, Nelson Mandela began serving a life sentence in South Africa's Robben Island Prison.  Many of the anti-apartheid activists were also in prison or in exile. The movement was leaderless, until South Africa's children rose up to galvanize the struggle once again.  Here is part three of Mandela: An Audio History.


NEWSREEL: This is the site of South Africa's top security jail, Robben Island, a narrow pencil of land off Cape Town, seven miles out in the South Atlantic. These watchtowers stand guard over men whom millions of black South Africans regard as their government in exile. 


EDDIE DANIELS, political prisoner: We landed at Robben Island…with these big iron gates. And every gate bangs behind me and bangs behind me. Then the warder opened the doors of one of the cells — a wooden door — then opened the grill and just shoved me in. There was my bucket and a couple of blankets. That was my first night. 


AHMED KATHRADA, political prisoner: We worked at the lime quarry. We had never done pick and shovel work before. So every day we had bleeding hands and blisters. Very, very hot. When we started working there we were told we would work for six months. We, in fact, worked there for about 13 years. 

SONNY VENKATRATHNAM, political prisoner: The lime quarry. Most of the time you are leaning on your shovel or your pickaxe. But all of the time you are in a group of people discussing things. 

NEVILLE ALEXANDER, political prisoner: Every single man on the island was a book, so to speak. You could learn from each and every one of them. 


EDDIE DANIELS: Our universe was 30 people. We were completely isolated. 

SONNY VENKATRATHNAM: They put us into a section on the island called "the terrorist camp." And we were called "the terries." Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu — people they identified as leaders. 

NELSON MANDELA: It was, to a very large extent, a mistake for the regime to bring us together. In spite of the fact that we were in prison, we were able to stand away from ourselves and to discover the weakness and the mistakes we made in the course of our struggle. 

SONNY VENKATRATHNAM: People say that life in prison is very tedious. But nobody wandered around bored, doing nothing. And, if I wanted to see you, talk to you, I needed to make an appointment with you. Can you believe that? In prison, I have to make an appointment to see somebody when I am locked up with you for 24 hours a day? And people were pretty strict about it. I couldn’t go up to somebody and say, "Can we have a chat about this?" "No, I can’t. I am booked.” But I ended up being like that. Because if you didn’t have appointments your life would have been unstructured and meaningless. 


NELSON MANDELA: My family lived under very difficult conditions without a head of the family who could support them, give them the love and the security, which they deserved. 


ZINDZI MANDELA-HLONGWANE, daughter of Nelson Mandela: My name is Zindzi Mandela. When my father went to prison, I was 18 months old. So I think I was about thirteen, fourteen when I saw him for the first time. 

WARDER (ARCHIVAL): The following rules are applicable to all visitors to Robben Island: no parcels or articles… 

ZINDZI MANDELA-HLONGWANE: I thought he would hold me, you know, I thought he would lift me in the air, maybe spin me around. But obviously that didn’t happen. 


ZINDZI MANDELA-HLONGWANE: The reality was that I had to see him behind this glass partition and we spoke through a telephone. There were warders on either side of us, interrupting the conversation and say, “You cannot speak about that. Whose name is that? You cannot talk about that person.” For many years I never saw my father standing because you would walk in there and find him seated already. So I had no idea even how tall he was. For him, it can't have been easy. 


MAC MAHARAJ, political prisoner: When I think of the nature of the apartheid system, they had no option but to bury us alive. No newspaper was allowed to publish a photograph of a prisoner. They hoped, that way, the public would simply forget us. 


GOVERNMENT NEWSREEL: Cape Town glowed in sunny weather today for one of its most colorful ceremonies, the opening of Parliament. It was opened at noon by the President, Mr. Fouche. 

PRESIDENT FOUCHE SPEECH (ARCHIVAL): The republic has enjoyed a year of peace and tranquility…

SONNY VENKATRATHNAM: All political movements were banned. Everything was quiet, ostensibly. In terms of the struggle, we were in the doldrums. 

AHMED KATHRADA: They had virtually crushed the movement in South Africa. It was a bad period for us. 

MURPHY MOROBI: A number of people were being killed in detention. People were very scared to get involved.

NTHATO MOTLANA: And yet, under the surface, it continued to bubble. 

BONGI MKHABELA, political activist: They had locked up Mandela in jail. But they hadn’t looked around to see where were the children. What are they doing? 

NTHATO MOTLANA: The student movement, under the leadership of people like Steve Biko, there rose a group imbued with the spirit of black consciousness. 

STEVE BIKO SPEECH (ARCHIVAL): Black people need to defeat the one element in politics which is working against them. And this was a psychological feeling of inferiority. 

THANDI MODISE, political activist: There was an emergence amongst black townships or self-definition. Do you take what your father has taken or do you stand up for what you think is right? 

STRINI MOODLEY, political activist: The reaction of the older generation to us was, “Are you guys mad? Those guys are gonna come blow you away. They’re gonna kill you.” And we said, “No, the first thing is you stand up, speak your mind as any normal human being has the right to do.” 

NTHATO MOTLANA: There was a state of unease throughout the country… over the pass laws, over the repression, over the police brutality. There were so many other things, you know. You could feel it. You could feel that something had to give. And it happened on June 16th


RADIO BROADCAST: Teach yourself Afrikaans. Good evening listeners. Let us start off by getting to know all the Afrikaans sounds — “lag, dag and nag.” 

NTHATO MOTLANA: Afrikaans is a hybridization, if you like, of Dutch. 

RADIO BROADCAST: “lag, dag and nag,” Thank you, easy isn’t it?

NTHATO MOTLANA: It was the language used by the rulers, and the black children hated Afrikaans with a passion. 

GOVERNMENT NEWSCAST: It is 1975, and Afrikaans is exactly 100 years old. To pay homage to the Afrikaans language, pupils of the school present a play in Afrikaans. 

BONGI MKHABELA: Every school day began with an assembly of all the kids. One day there was an announcement.

GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT: I am going to speak to you about Bantu education, the education of a million Bantu children… 

BONGI MKHABELA: As of today, every subject would be taught in Afrikaans. And the teacher walks in, History becomes geskiedenis. And we were all like, “What are you talking about?” And our teacher was standing there trying very hard; he has an Arfikaans dictionary on the one hand and he was trying to translate. And in complete exasperation the teacher says, “You know what, I don’t know.”  And that didn’t work, whole classes failed. When they did that, they actually mobilized the entire school generation because it represented everything that the oppressors stood for. This was a battle we had to fight.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Soweto, a complex of black townships on the Southwest corner of Johannesburg, with an estimated population of one and one quarter million. Everyday Sowetans pour into white homes, offices and factories in Johannesburg leaving the township to the children and the teenagers. 

BONGI MKHABELA: June the 16th, 1976 starts very much as an ordinary day. 

MURPHEY MOROBI: Our school started at 8 am, and the tradition has had it with the singing of the lords prayer; Our father who art in heaven, hallow be thy name, thy kingdom come. But on this day, instead of the lord’s prayer, we sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, God Bless Africa. Which was our signal tune to march out of the school premises. And we all joined at the time. 

(SINGING: “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”)

NEWSCAST: At 8:15 in the morning, and precisely according to plan, students simultaneously marched out of five schools in Soweto, intending to protest the Afrikaans issue in a mass meeting at the Orlando Football Stadium. 

BONGI MKHABELA: We had hundreds, probably thousands, of school kids. And we thought we knew everything there was to know about managing protests. The first thing we worried about was that everyone must be accounted for at all times. So we then had chains of five kids. And make sure that you are holding somebody’s hand all the time. If you are not holding somebody’s hand, get worried because where is your partner? 

NTHATO MOTLANA: Then it became really a torrent, a sea of young, black faces.  Masses of students, I mean we’d never seen such a demonstration in many, many years. And at that point the police tried to stop the march from going on to Orlando Stadium. 

BONGI MKHABELA: I’ve never seen that many police. You didn’t only have the police at that time, you had the Defense Force. So you actually had the Army.

NTHATO MOTLANA: They intervened by first of all, setting dogs. And I saw these police dogs set onto these kids, man, and…I saw moments of real courage, especially from the girls. 

BONGI MKHABELA: I mean this is a group of kids. Kids with shining black shoes and little white socks and teeny little tunics. And they are singing freedom songs, holding one another. We actually looked cute! It’s unbelievable to think that anyone could have stood firm on their feet and actually shot into that crowd. 


MURPHY MOROBI: Your initial thought is to secure yourself. And then you look around you, you see girls running, screaming. 

BONGI MKHABELA: We had hundreds of school kids running helter skelter, running all over the place. We had planned for water pipes; we had planned for maybe rubber bullets. We had not planned or thought that it's possible people would actually be killed on that day. 

NEWSCAST: The teeming black township of Soweto has finally erupted into the violence the whites have been fearing for years. At least two of the dead fell when police opened fire on a crowd. 

BONGI MKHABELA: I don’t know why they decided to shoot. I can only think it was black life and it didn’t count. Life of African people had always been cheap. 

MURPHY MOROBI: I mean having grown up in the township, you know, you heard gun shots. But the sounds of bullets flying, you know… you standing on top of an abandoned car and suddenly you hear bullets thudding on the side, you know. Not knowing where the next one is going to come from. You just get a sense of how fleeting life can be… and you feel, you know, how are you going to deal with it tomorrow?

NEWSCAST: Within 36 hours of the start of a march by 10,000 pupils in protest against Afrikaans, 29 people were dead and 250 injured. 

NTHATO MOTLANA: The mayhem went all over Soweto. The following day, it went all over the country. And really, South Africa was on fire. 

NEWSCAST: Here in Durban, three police baton charges were needed to break up a two-thousand-strong demonstration at Claremont Native Township. 

JOHNNY MAKATINI, political activist: It was like a country at war. And I’ll never forget… listening to my radio as the demonstrations were spreading like a prairie fire, and it occurred to me that the regime that we thought was powerful seemed to be terribly disorganized. Panic! 

GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT:  In these circumstances the government has decided on the following measures: No disorder will be tolerated; agitators who do not cease their activities immediately will be placed in detention in terms of the Internal Security Acts; strong police units will be on hand to deal with any persons who…

MURPHY MOROBI: For days Soweto became… a smell of tear gas.  And the kids got to know how to counteract tear gas -- take a piece of cloth, wet it and hold it over to your nose. 


NEWSCAST: Since June the 16th, when South African troops and police opened fire on a peaceful school children’s demonstration, the white government has presided over the largest massacre of its black population since South Africa came into existence… 


THANDI MODISE: When you see your friends being shot at for just walking in the street, it does something to you. Therefore, you would look around. What are the alternatives? Do I become like my mother, forever be under the yoke of apartheid? The alternative was for me to not be like my mom, great as she was, but to go and fight. 


NTHATO MOTLANA: And ‘76 really represented, in many ways, divorce between black children and their parents. 

BONGI MKHABELA: It was clear in all of us, kids, at that time, that peaceful struggle, negotiated settlements were totally out of the question. Many of the young people who were on that march left South Africa for armed forces and for an armed struggle.

THANDI MODISE: We the youth have gone into foreign lands to learn how to fight. Mommy please keep quiet even if I die you will know that I have died fighting for our country. 


NELSON MANDELA: Information kept on coming through the prison walls about what was going on. The significance of the 1976 uprising was that the government actually produced one of the most rebellious generations of African youth. They were very militant. They were very brave. And there is nothing as encouraging to a political prisoner than to know that the ideas for which you are suffering will never die. 

STRINI MOODLEY: 1976 was the turning point. Black people had made up their minds: we are not taking this any more. South Africa was never the same again. 


Guerilla soldiers on the border, unrest in the townships, striking workers, and a wave of international attention were making South Africa's system of apartheid unworkable. Something had to give. And it happened on Feb. 2, 1990 when South Africa's president, F.W. De Klerk announced that the ANC would be unbanned and that Nelson Mandela would be freed after 27 years in prison. Next »

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Part 4 — STATE OF EMERGENCY (1976-1990) 

DESMOND TUTU:  In the 1970's and 80's, world attention was riveted by the brutal images coming out of South Africa: striking black school children braving bullets, and white security forces bulldozing homes in the black townships. But throughout these years, the person who figured most prominently in South Africa's struggle was invisible.  Here is part four of Mandela: An Audio History.


ANC RADIO FREEDOM BROADCAST: This is Radio Freedom, the voice of the African National Congress. 


NEWSCAST: The South African Security Forces believe there are over 4,000 guerillas under training in camps in Mozambique, Angola, and other frontline states. The guerillas sing of the man they regard as their leader, the jailed nationalist, Nelson Mandela. "Show us the way to victory," say the words, "Freedom is in your hands." 


HELEN SUZMAN, former opposition Member of Parliament: In the 80s, black resistance had grown enormously. 

AHMED KATHRADA, activist: The mass movement in this country, the political movement, the armed struggle, the world opinion — was all turning against the government. 

JOE MATTHEWS, activist: Uniquely in the world, the struggle took on the character of a race issue…the issue of humanity itself. It made this a worldwide phenomenon. 





WINNIE MANDELA: Can I help you? 

DUTCH RADIO INTERVIEWER: Yes, I am calling from Holland. I would like to speak with Mrs. Mandela, please. I am calling from the Dutch Radio. 


NEWSCAST: Winnie Mandela is her husband's voice in the world outside. The government has tried to silence her. For nearly 20 years, she has been living under virtual house arrest. 


DUTCH RADIO INTERVIEWER: Your husband has been in prison now for 22 years. It is incredible that he is still the most popular leader in South Africa. 

WINNIE MANDELA: He is a symbol of the aspirations of the black people of this country. 


GEORGE BIZOS, Mandela's attorney: In the early 80s, the world, in some sense, became obsessed by this political prisoner. 


DUTCH RADIO INTERVIEWER: Our thoughts are with you. 

WINNIE MANDELA: Thank you so much for your solidarity 

DUTCH RADIO INTERVIEWER: We will meet in freedom! 

WINNIE MANDELA: Certainly. Amandla! 

DUTCH RADIO INTERVIEWER: Amandla. Ngawethu! Thank you. 


NTHATO MOTLANA, activist: Sometimes I think the fact that he was in prison, and could make no speeches and therefore could make no mistakes, it's as if the government had done us a favor by locking him up all those many years. 

NEWSCAST: Fifty thousand birthday cards from the people of Holland were delivered to Nelson Mandela's wife, Winnie. World champion boxer, Mike Tyson, sent his gloves for Mandela... 

ALLISTER SPARKS, journalist: I think the government was always terrified that he'd die in prison. They were between a rock and a hard place. If he died in prison, not only would he be a martyr but I think they feared that the world would believe they had bumped him off, they had assassinated him in some way. On the other hand, they were afraid to let him out, because they didn't know what would happen. 


AHMED KATHRADA, activist: By that time, the struggle had advanced a great deal. The people in the millions had just started disobeying apartheid laws. There were not jails enough, there were not police enough. 

NTHATO MOTLANA: It was great! Because you felt, deep down in your bones, that this couldn't go on for a long time. 

HELEN SUZMAN: Many South Africans didn't understand what was going on because they were leading their own segregated, cloistered lives with their black servants and not ever setting foot in the townships. So they didn't know what was going on. 

DENNIS GOLDBERG, activist: And if we didn't know, it was because we closed our eyes, because it was very uncomfortable to admit the truth to oneself. 


ROELF MEYER, former government minister: My role as Deputy Minister of Police was to calm the situation down. Because there was the general belief, at least on the side of [President] P.W. Botha at that stage, that if we would control the problem it might go away. 

NEWSCAST: Good evening. A general state of emergency has been declared throughout the country. The State President told Parliament that he'd taken this step because he believed the ordinary laws of the land were inadequate to maintain public order in the prevailing circumstances. 

PRESIDENT P.W. BOTHA SPEECH (ARCHIVAL): The government displayed the utmost patience. I was even accused in some quarters of being weak. Let there be no misunderstanding. South Africa is a developing, stable country, and we are determined to remain one. 

NEWSCAST: Good evening. Security forces made 113 arrests within the first 12 hours after the state of emergency came into force at midnight last night. Roadblocks and other emergency measures have already been implemented...


NTHATO MOTLANA: The police moved around in tanks equipped with jets for tear gas. It was a state of utter chaos in this country! You could see that something had to give. 

NEWSCAST: Apartheid opponents have now called for a nationwide week of general protest beginning Monday, because it's been a year of almost continued racial violence. 

PIK BOTHA, former government minister: It was made clear to us by the whole world, including our trading partners, that this could simply not go on. We lost virtually all our trade with America once they introduced that anti-apartheid bill. And within the ranks of the cabinet, a realization grew slowly that somewhere ahead of us is calamity... unless we change, unless we adapt, unless we do something about it. 

NEWSCAST: After months of brutal in-fighting, President P.W. Botha was forced from office today in a dramatic cabinet coup. It was a rainy, gloomy day in Cape Town as the man who was head of state here for 11 years was made to step down. 

ALLISTER SPARKS: His own cabinet tipped him out. There was a growing feeling that they had to move in some new direction. 

NEWSCAST: Botha's successor, F.W. De Klerk, and his associates are faced with convincing a skeptical international community that they have policies for South Africa that will forever bury the concept of apartheid. 


F.W. DE KLERK, former President: Before I became President, in the latter part of the 80s, the options were limited. One option was a military option: hard fist, continue, hold on to power, suppress. Another option would be to string things out; to negotiate but really not negotiate. To give a little here, do a little thing there, and to just stretch it out. 

HELEN SUZMAN: He knew perfectly well he could stay in power. With the army and police, you can carry on for quite a long time — if you're prepared to shoot, to use violence if necessary. But I don't think De Klerk was prepared to shoot. 


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the State President. 


F.W. DE KLERK: The opening speech in the beginning of the year, 1990, was the most well-kept secret in my whole political career. 

DE KLERK SPEECH (ARCHIVAL): Our country and its people have been embroiled in conflict, tension, and violent struggle for decades. Today, I am able to announce far-reaching decisions. The steps that have been decided are the following: the prohibition of the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress, the South African Communist Party, and a number of subsidiary organizations is being rescinded. 


FREDERICK VAN ZYL SLABBERT, former opposition Member of Parliament: It was a total stunning shock. They didn't know this was going to happen. 

DE KLERK SPEECH (ARCHIVAL): I wish to put it plainly, that the government has taken a firm decision to release Mr. Mandela unconditionally. I am serious... I am serious about bringing this matter to finality without delay. The time for negotiation has arrived. 

NEWSCAST: If I may, I'd like to recap what we've just heard from President De Klerk. He has announced that at 3 P.M. tomorrow, Johannesburg time, Nelson Mandela will finally be released after 27 years behind bars. 


ALLISTER SPARKS: When F.W. De Klerk made that speech, he believed that if you released Mandela, who had become an icon in prison, a living martyr — if you released him, he would quickly be shown to be fallible. Old, out of touch, 'de-mythologized' was the word they used. And all this was wrong. 


NEWSCAST: You join us at the Victor Verster Prison, where the excitement is running high — people halfway up trees, standing on their toes, clinging to the wires, trying to get the best possible view. Any moment now... If we can just spot Mr. Mandela... There's Mr. Mandela! Mr. Nelson Mandela, a free man taking his first steps into a new South Africa. (Crowd screams) And a salute from Mr. Mandela, his wife Winnie, greeting the people. His first public appearance in nearly three decades. Seventy-two years old, walking strongly, step-by-step. And one wonders what must be passing through Mr. Mandela's mind at this moment. 

NELSON MANDELA: When I saw that crowd, I must confess that I didn't have the courage and the confidence to speak to them. I never imagined that there would be such crowds. It rather took me by surprise. I think it took us more than an hour to go through the crowds just to get to the platform. 

NELSON MANDELA SPEECH (ARCHIVAL): Today, the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognized that apartheid has no future... Amandla!... iAfrika!... Mayibuye! 



On April 27, 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa's first black president. But it didn't come easy. The four years between Nelson Mandela's release and the transition to democracy were some of the most volatile and painful in the country's history.

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Part 5 — DEMOCRACY (1990-1994)

DESMOND TUTU: Nelson Mandela was sent to prison in 1964. When he emerged 27 years later, Mandela faced his former captors, the white South African government, as a political opponent, rather than an outlaw. Many hoped his release would signal a quick end to the struggle for liberation. But the next four years would be among the bloodiest and most painful for all South Africans — black and white — as they struggled toward the transition to majority rule. Here is the final chapter of Mandela: An Audio History.

NEWSCAST: For the first time in 78 years, the African National Congress is talking to the white minority government. Its leader, Nelson Mandela, publicly welcomed by the President who freed him less than three months ago.

NELSON MANDELA SPEECH (ARCHIVAL): We are here as fellow South Africans convinced that the system of white minority rule must come to an end without delay.

PIK BOTHA, former government minister: From the early sixties, in the minds of most of the whites of this country, Mandela was simply regarded as a terrorist. And now I must sit with his men around a table.

NELSON MANDELA: To start negotiations with a government which had, throughout the years, repeated that they would never sit down and talk to a terrorist organization, was a highly sensitive matter.

PIK BOTHA: When we started negotiations, Mr. Mandela — his very first opening statement, for at least 20 minutes or more — he made a study of the Afrikaner history, merely telling us, "Look, I know you and I respect what you've gone through." He didn't come up with a statement of bitterness, retribution. No. A man, after 27 years of being robbed of his freedom, and to then come forward and start negotiations on that basis… remarkable. There's no way you can argue against that.

ALLISTER SPARKS, journalist: It was the work he'd done in this harsh prison of making it his business to get into the heart and mind of his adversary. And that's the key to everything. You've got to understand your adversary.

NEWSCAST: After three days of historic discussions, first President De Klerk and then Mr. Mandela appeared to face the press together, their handshake evidence of the progress made.

ALBIE SACHS, activist: It didn't come easily. We had breakdowns. We had setbacks. People would storm out of meetings. But things seemed to be going well, until fairly early in 1992 we had total breakdown.

NEWSCAST: Good evening. Prospects for peace are fading. At least 31 people have died since violence erupted in Soweto yesterday.

NEWSCAST 2: The powerful image of violence in South Africa is no longer a confrontation between black and white, but between black and black.


NEWSCAST 3: The more conservative Zulus, led by Chief Buthelezi, challenged Mandela's right to speak for all blacks. Blacks are killing blacks in a steadily worsening tribal war.

NEWSCAST 4: Cars and houses torched, an alleged Inkatha supporter necklaced with a burning tire. A policeman sobbed outside his blazing home, set alight by neighbors who accused the police of involvement in the massacre.


AHMED KATHRADA, activist There was widespread violence. Many, many people were killed.

ALLISTER SPARKS: The military security forces and the police were engaged in this. They were providing weapons. They organized raids. They constituted what Mandela called a 'Third Force.'

NEWSCAST: Nelson Mandela accused the government of complicity in the killings. The large rally cheered as Mr. Mandela announced that he'd suspended talks with the government.

NELSON MANDELA SPEECH (ARCHIVAL): The negotiation process is completely in tatters. I can no longer explain to our people why we continue to talk to a government which is murdering our people.


NEWSCAST: That war between the Zulu tribe and left-wing blacks has become a lot deadlier in recent days, and that is bound to make whites in this country even more anxious. Widespread violence to go with their now uncertain political and economic future.

NTHATO MOTLANA, activist: The reaction of white South Africans was, as usual, divided.

NEWSCAST: Many left-wing whites would now join Nelson Mandela's ANC, but most are in an expanding center — the majority who accept change, but are worried.


ROELF MEYER, former government minister: Whites simply were afraid of, you know, giving up the power that they had, that they had exercised for more than 300 years. And they could see this, sort of, slipping out of their hands. And some right-wingers, the white right wing, tried to do something to derail the process.


POLICE STATEMENT: At approximately 10:25 this morning, Mr. Hani drove up to his house, got out, and at the same moment another car, we believe a Ford Laser, stopped behind Mr. Hani. Shots were fired, by a white man, at close range.

ALBIE SACHS: Chris Hani was the head of Umkonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC. Immensely popular person. He would draw the biggest crowd of any leader in the country, Mandela included.

POLICE STATEMENT: I am unfortunate to announce that Mr. Hani has been killed instantly.

ALBIE SACHS: When he was shot down after he had been out jogging, there was an extraordinary eruption of anger in the country. That was a most terrible moment.

NEWSCAST: There have been numerous incidents of rioting and other violence, and to report on the situation in Durban, we have Dirk de Pienaar reporting from a portable phone.

REPORTER: In Durban, I am in the city center and there is a riot. Police have now cocked their rifles. There is chaos in the center of Durban right now. Hundreds of policemen are coming out. They've got bullet-proof vests on... uh, an ANC...

NEWSCASTER: Hello, Dirk?


AHMED KATHRADA: President De Klerk and the government realized that they were now powerless to control the situation. And that very night, Mandela went on television to appeal to the country for calm.

NELSON MANDELA SPEECH (ARCHIVAL): We say to all South Africans, black and white, this killing must stop. Our pain and anger is real, yet we must not permit ourselves to be provoked by those who seek to deny us the very freedom Chris Hani gave his life for.

AHMED KATHRADA: It was his intervention on television that kept the country calm. That night, effectively, Mandela became President of the country.

NEWSCAST: On the final day of campaigning on South Africa's non-racial election, a huge explosion has caused death and injury near the Johannesburg offices of the African National Congress.

REPORTER: No one has claimed responsibility, but it's assumed to be the work of the far right, which has threatened to disrupt the election. The effects of this kind of action may well be to deter people from voting.

ALLISTER SPARKS: It was a very explosive situation right in the final days of the transition. I mean, nothing in South Africa has ever been dull. We went to the brink several times, but there was no way of going backwards.


NEWSCAST: It's seven o'clock on the morning of the 27th of April, 1994. Polling stations have opened, thousands of people queue up to cast their vote at ballot stations. And we see that Mr. Mandela is busy casting his vote at this moment.


CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCEMENT: Vote ANC for peace in our land. Now is the time. Vote Mandela for President! Vote ANC!

NEWSCAST: In many black and colored areas, queues began forming at four o'clock this morning, as first-time voters streamed to the polls. Thousands of people were already queuing before seven o'clock outside polling stations near Pretoria and at Soweto. The Red Cross said people should wear a hat, take a bottle of water and some boiled sweets in case of long delays.


DESMOND TUTU: It was a crazy day. To think that I had to wait until I was 62 years of age, Nelson Mandela was 76 years of age, before we voted in the land of our birth.

NEWSCAST: A man of 101 years old voted for the first time at Addo in the Eastern Cape last night. Although unable to say much, the man appeared jubilant.

JOE MATTHEWS: It just was overwhelming to see all these people in long queues, who couldn't even complete their voting in the one day — it had to continue the next day — and were prepared to stand there in the sun and rain and to travel miles, to go and put an "X" against a name. And I wondered to myself, "What is it... about casting a vote?"


NELSON MANDELA, INAUGURATION (ARCHIVAL): I, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, do hereby swear to be faithful to the Republic of South Africa.

DESMOND TUTU: Huge crowds! The day when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

NELSON MANDELA, INAUGURATION (ARCHIVAL): … and to devote myself to the well-being of the Republic and all its people.

INAUGURAL OFFICIAL: Will you please raise your right hand and say, "So help me, God."



DESMOND TUTU: And you sat there, and you looked at the benches of the newly elected legislators, and there were all these terrorists — as they had been regarded by the former apartheid government — and there they were sitting. (Laughs) Many had been on Robben Island, many had been tortured. Many of us kept having to pinch ourselves to say, "No, man, I am dreaming."


AHMED KATHRADA: On that day, everyone who was at the inauguration will admit that the most exciting thing of that day was when the jets, just at the right time, they flew over that crowd. I think it was just the idea of people suddenly realizing, en masse, that those are now ours. They don't belong to the white apartheid regime any more. They belong to us, to all the people. We are the government now.


"WELELE" (sung in Xhosa):

Mandela, don't let the whites undermine us. Help! People are dying. We sleep in the mountains.

Britta, this could go at the end of #1, or #5 or someplace else altogether)