President Cyril Ramaphosa is going back where he was on 11 February 1990: on the balcony of the Cape Town City Hall where he stood next to Nelson Mandela as he addressed the crowd on his release from prison.
Ramaphosa will that day deliver The Speech that birthed A Nation, 30 years on to commemorate Mandela’s release from Victor Verster Prison.
After a long walk from the prison near Paarl, accompanied by his then wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Madiba was transported to the Marine Parade to talk to the people for the first time in 27 years.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation, which organised the commemoration, will host three events in the Western Cape.
The day will begin with a reunion of the original reception committee that facilitated Madiba’s return to Victor Verster at 8am; a lecture by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee and a panel discussion with Danai Mupotsa, author of Feeling and Ugly, and Opal Tometi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter at noon at the City Hall, before the address by Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa was part of the reception committee and a popular face around Madiba during the release, sporting a beard and long hair.
The foundation said this year’s commemoration will consider the “new prisons of Africa” that have come to define life for many and focus on how to achieve substantive liberation.
“These ‘prisons’ range from the physical prisons that have led to high levels of incarceration and the failures of restorative justice, to the effective prisons that define our lives, such as the violence that keeps people in their homes, to the prisons of the mind that keep people within a particular understanding of themselves,” it said yesterday.
The commemorations, happening shortly before Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address in parliament, are “a time for reflection, planning and to bring the historical narrative of the country into focus while assessing the state of South Africa looking at where we have come from and where we are going”.
“It is an immensely historical occasion that celebrates the legacy of Mandela and the hard-won freedoms we enjoy today,” the foundation said.