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‘I Am Still Optimistic But I Am Also Distressed’

On February 11, it will be 25 years since Nelson Mandela’s release. Millions of people remember where they were on that day and tell of their feelings a quarter of a century on.

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Denis Goldberg, who faced death with Nelson Mandela in the 1964 Rivonia Trial, was in a TV studio in London commenting on the great man’s release from prison.

Goldberg was released before the others after 22 years.

“I was absolutely confident that I was the start of a process. I wanted to be out to play a role in the liberation of South Africa. I was tired of being a symbol locked up in prison and I thought the time had come to move things along. There was the offer of releases and unconditionally releases, I decided to accept because I didn’t want PW Botha’s offer in 1985 just to evaporate into thin air, he made the offer out of weakness not strength, that’s the important part,” says Goldberg.

“I was able to tell the story of how the day we were sentenced, the head of the prison security said we should have been hanged and will never walk out of prison on our own two feet; they’d carry us out in a coffin. And then Nelson Mandela stopped the car he was in and he and his then wife Winnie Mandela walked out holding their hands into freedom, and the rest is history. I was able to tell that story. We survived and the old security colonel had passed away.”

Goldberg has many memories of Mandela but one that sticks in the mind is their first encounter after prison.

“He said to me, ‘hello boy it’s been a long time. He always called me boy because I was so much younger then he was. It was very sweet and touching. I also remember a bit later when we met again in Sweden, my wife and my daughter had to meet him. He greeted my wife rather stiffly not knowing who she is and when I introduced her, he bent down from his great height and whispered to her, ‘the boy is looking good you must be looking after him very well.’”

Zakhe Khuzwayo, Group CFO of InnoVent, was 14 years old and at boarding school at Hilton College in Pietermaritzburg. The school was dismissed early so they could watch Mandela’s first walk as a free man.

“The man was an enigma, I think I had seen a photograph of him when I was younger, I didn’t know what to expect. I guess it was more exciting and anxiety to see who this guy is and see what he actually looks like,” says Khuzwayo.

Twenty five years later, Khuzwayo runs his own company and enjoys much of the freedom ushered in by the release of Mandela.

“His role was instrumental in what this country actually became,”

says Khuzwayo.

Political analyst Thapelo Tselapedi was four years old in 1990 and remembers the humble Toyota Cressida that Mandela rode through Cape Town in. He also remembers seeing the man in the flesh four years later.

“In 1994, when I was eight, we went to the Mafikeng stadium where he was speaking. After he spoke, my sister ran to him to him to try and get an autograph. Nelson Mandela was surrounded by his bodyguards and my brother and I tried to go in and get an autograph but we couldn’t. My sister was the only one who managed to get one. She got in, got her autograph, he shook her hand and then she got out. I was sad that I couldn’t break through, but my sister always kept that autograph in her room, it was very nice,” recalls Tselapedi.

A quarter of a century later, his feelings are bittersweet.

“Sweet because he has to do the impossible to calm down black people but at the same it seemed to not have been enough as it was limited by the interests that the white people had also wanted, he had to find a home for everyone and that meant compromise. The bittersweet part is characterized by where black people are now versus where white people are.”

Like Tselapedi, Goldberg has his opinions.

“I am still optimistic but I am also distressed. I am optimistic because we have achieved so much despite our weakness, despite the legacy of apartheid leaving us with an inadequate civil service, with half the population illiterate, half the population unemployed and we’ve come a long way since then and the conditions of people have undoubtedly improved. My sadness is the corruption and what I call the patronage society,” says Goldberg.

The man who stared down death with Mandela feels his country has a long way

to go.

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IN PICTURES | Looking Back At The Vibe Of The South African Elections

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FORBES AFRICA’s photojournalists immortalize the tension and elation of the South African elections in May that saw the African National Congress win for the sixth time since 1994.


In what was a landmark 25 years since the first democratic elections, South Africa registered, voted and elected the African National Congress (ANC) for the sixth time to govern the nation again for the next five years. The 2019 elections saw many surprises and plenty more political action compared to the previous polls.

 In the run-up to election day, political parties (48 in all) emphasized the country’s socio-economic challenges such as unemployment, education, housing and the contentious issue of land expropriation.  

On May 8, the day the country cast its vote, voters woke early to congregate and line up at the 22,924 voting stations strewn across the country.

FORBES AFRICA’s photojournalists immortalize the tension and elation of the South African elections in May that saw the African National Congress win for the sixth time since 1994. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

I was among them, a citizen also doubling as a photojournalist on the quest to document this historic election, my camera strapped around my neck and my constant companion. 

This Wednesday morning was particularly cold but voters were in sweaters and armed with their identity books to have a say in South African politics with an ‘X’ mark on the ballot paper.

Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), was among those at the Presbyterian Church in Dobsonville, Soweto; the township where he was born.

Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

His arrival created a frenzy as international and local media wrestled with each other for the perfect shot.

After casting his vote and walking out of the church, he addressed the public.

“On such a historic day, it is important to vote in Soweto with the people of Soweto to express hope and a future for our country. Soweto, to me, represents the home of where the struggle is and now we’re entering into a new struggle for jobs for many South Africans. I remember, vividly and well, when I played in these streets and I remember too well the release of Nelson Mandela, therefore today, I urge that we come and cast our votes,” Maimane said.

He spoke about the new struggle.

“To me, there could be nothing more special, nothing more historic than being able to express our future. Vote for the future of this country and for the unemployed South Africans; it’s a new struggle and we are fighting for the protection of freedom and advancement of freedom.”   

Post the election results, Maimane was the first DA leader to not have grown more supporters, whereas the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), with the third highest number of votes, gained more in all South African provinces except the Northern Cape.

A few kilometers from Dobsonville is Mzimhlophe Hostel. A hostel among many others in Soweto that erupted with service delivery protests prior to the elections. On election day, it was more peaceful and locals were going about their daily lives.

Kwenzi Gwala standing outside what is left of his shack. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

In the same vicinity is a squatter camp (informal settlement) allegedly set on fire weeks before the elections.

Residents and brothers Mduduzi (32) and Kwenzi Gwala (22) came to Johannesburg looking for employment.

“This is my first time voting this year; I wish the economy could strengthen so we can move out of the squatter camps and live in houses. Our camp burned around the Easter holidays while we were at church. We used to sell African beer and our stock got burned along with the money and clothes that were inside. All we have is what we are wearing now,” Kwenzi says.

About 12 kilometers away was where national president and president of the ANC Cyril Ramaphosa cast his vote in his hometown of Chiawelo, at a local primary school.

National president and president of the ANC Cyril Ramaphosa cast his vote in his hometown of Chiawelo. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

The supporters of various parties, the media and voters were out in full force to witness their president in Soweto.

“The nation and the people are energized. They can see their votes are heralding a new dawn. This is a vote that reminds me of 1994 when the people were just as excited as this because they were heralding a new period, a new future for our country,” said Ramaphosa.

“Today, this is what I am picking up, our people are excited about what lies tomorrow and they want to vote for a government that is going to serve them, that is going to address their needs and aspirations. So, I am truly humbled by the turnout that I’ve seen here.

“There is a great vibe and it’s a vibe for democracy, it’s a vote also for our democratic system that we’ve been building over the last 25 years. So, 25 years later, we still have a nation that is breathing confidence and excitement casting their vote. Today, I will go home to sleep very peacefully like I did last night.

Brother of South African journalist Shiraaz Mohamed, kidnapped in Syria on January 2017, begs for government intervention. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

“This vote is about confidence, it is about the future and it is about us that are going to be elected to work a lot harder, much harder than we have in the past to realize the ideals, wishes and hopes of our people, so this, to me, is like a rocket booster for democracy and we are going to build a great country because we will be doing so standing on the shoulders of our people,” Ramaphosa said.

Like the DA, the ANC lost more supporters nationally; Gauteng province was the gold prize, for the first time since 1999, the ANC had to battle to remain above 50% to secure the province.

Motlabana Monnakgotla

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May Will Be Gone In June Ending Months Of Political Battering And Speculation

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British Prime Minister Teresa May – just under three years into the job – says she will step down on June 7.

This follows a hammering, from both sides of the house, over her clumsy handling of the Brexit process. She has lost countless votes in Parliament over a Brexit deal and was seen by many in politics as weak and dithering. It is ironic that May herself voted to keep Britain in Europe, only to see her career expire as she struggled to make the opposite happen.

READ MORE | Chilling Words From The Man Who Broke The Bank Of England

Her heartfelt farewell speech on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street concluded that she had done her best to make Britain a better place not merely for the privileged few, but also for the whole population.

The supreme irony is that her shuffling off of the Prime Minister’s job will see the shuffling in one of Britain’s best known members of the privileged few. Eton and Oxford educated Boris Johnson is likely to step in as leader of May’s Conservative party ahead of what surely is going to be a snap election.   

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Poll Position: The South African 2019 Elections

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May 8, a landmark day for Africa’s second biggest economy. South Africans will cast their votes for the country’s sixth general elections since the dawn of democracy in 1994.

In the run-up to the polls, the country saw flagrant protests in some parts, as disgruntled citizens expressed disapproval of their stifling living conditions. 

In this image, a resident of Alexandra, a township in the north of Johannesburg, squats in the middle of a busy road leading to the opulent precincts of Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile.  

The dichotomy of socio-economic circumstances is an accelerant in one of the country’s poorest communities filled to the brim with squatter camps and the restlessness of unemployment.

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