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On this day 25 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked free

After 26 years in prison, Mandela called for peace.

Source: British Pathé/YouTube

IN 1964, NELSON Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress, was sentenced to prison.

He would spend 18 years in the notorious Robben Island, six in Pollsmoor Prison and just over a year in Victor Verster Prison.

On 11 February, 1990, he finally walked free.

On his release he gave a searing speech calling for reconciliation with South Africa’s white minority.

Source: NewsAS Theyare/YouTube

“I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.

It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured. We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa. The freedom movement is a political home for you too. We call on the international community to continue the campaign to isolate the apartheid regime. To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process towards the complete eradication of apartheid.

Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way. Universal suffrage on a common voters` role in a united democratic and non-racial South Africa is the only way to peace and racial harmony.

In conclusion I wish to quote my own words during my trial in 1964. They are true today as they were then:

`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 which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’

Read: ‘Go well, Madiba’:Nelson Mandela laid to rest in South Africa

Read: On this day 25 years ago, the speech that changed South Africa forever

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