Grayed but unbowed, Mandela is freed

Nelson Mandela (L) and his wife Winnie salute supporters after the anti-apartheid activist was freed after 27 years in prison on Feb. 11, 1990. File photo/UPI
Nelson Mandela (L) and his wife Winnie salute supporters after the anti-apartheid activist was freed after 27 years in prison on Feb. 11, 1990. File photo/UPI | License Photo

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Feb. 11, 1990 (UPI) -- Black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela walked free Sunday from 27 years in prison and told a rally marred by two deaths and 200 shotgun wounds that South Africa's blacks must not yet abandon the armed struggle to end white domination.

But the silver-haired symbol of the fight against apartheid also offered an olive branch to whites on his first day of freedom in almost three decades, saying there was room in a democratic South Africa for all races.


Violence, he said, may still be necessary, but he said he hoped freedom for South Africa's oppressed majority could be achieved ultimately through negotiation.

Mandela, standing under the shadow of the green, yellow and black flag of the once-outlawed African National Congress, shouted, ''Amandla!'' -- ''Power!'' -- and gave a clenched-fist salute to a Cape Town throng of more than 40,000.


''I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all,'' Mandela began his address. ''Today, the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future. Our march to freedom is irreversible.''

Mandela's first taste of freedom was marred by clashes between police and youths on the Cape Town rally's fringes who smashed shop windows and began looting. Police fired birdshot, killing one black man in a display window, witnesses and paramedics said. A second black man was stabbed to death by other rampaging youths, many of them drunk.

Scores of people were wounded by birdshot, including CBS Radio reporter Mike Sullivan and other journalists. Paramedics said at least 200 people received emergency treatment. Officials at three Cape Town hospitals said they had treated 71 people, most suffering birdshot injuries. Two were in serious condition.

A roof loaded with spectators also collapsed, leaving at least 25 hurt, the hospitals reported.

Mandela walked out of Victor Verster prison 50 miles northeast of Cape Town Sunday, opening a new chapter in South African political history and ending 27 years and seven months of confinement for advocating the violent overthrow of the white minority government.

Hundreds of supporters turned out to see him punch the air with a clenched fist and get in a car without comment for the 35-mile journey to Cape Town.


''We're two steps closer to freedom,'' said Anthony Abrahams, 29, who drove nine hours with his wife to see Mandela. ''South Africa belongs to all who live in it.''

In the confusion, Mandela's driver made a wrong turn and drove in front of City Hall. Mobbed by crowds, the car remained stuck there for 30 minutes with Mandela inside. Compounding the chaos, organizers tried to announce the rally was moving to another location but the crowd remained in place.

Within hours of his release, Mandela, 71, reaffirmed the very same stance that led to his imprisonment on sabotage and treason charges in 1964.

Before the crowd in downtown Cape Town, Mandela praised the recently legalized ANC, the South African Communist Party, other anti-apartheid organizations and his family for their support during his ''lonely'' imprisonment.

In his speech, delivered in clear and forceful tones from the steps of Cape Town City Hall, Mandela praised President Frederik de Klerk, who he said had gone further than any other white South African leader in meeting the demands of the black majority. But he warned there was still a long way to go. Mandela also defended the use of violence to overthrow apartheid.

''Our resorting to the armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue,'' he said as the crowd cheered, ''Viva! Viva!''


''We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement will be created soon so that there may no longer be the need for the armed struggle,'' he said.

''We have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts. To relax our efforts now would be a mistake that generations to come would not forgive. ... There must be an end to the white monopoly on political power," Mandela said.

''Mr. de Klerk has gone further than any other Nationalist president in taking real steps to normalize the situation,'' Mandela said. ''However, there are further steps ... that have to be met before negotiations on the basic demands of our people can begin.''

He called for the immediate end to South Africa's 43-month-old state of emergency and for the release of all political prisoners, both black and white. Mandela also urged the international community to continue with economic sanctions against South Africa until apartheid is wiped out.

Mandela then sounded a conciliatory note to whites, saying they would have a role in a black-dominated country.

''We call on our white compatriots to join us in the making of a new South Africa. This freedom movement is the political home for you, too,'' he said.


Earlier in the day, Mandela, jailed in August 1962 and sentenced to life in prison in 1964 for sabotage, was driven to the prison gate in a car, then walked to freedom hand-in-hand with his wife, Winnie.

At the Mandela home in the black township of Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg, thousands of blacks danced and chanted ''Viva Mandela!'' in the rain.

De Klerk announced Saturday that Mandela would be released from prison unconditionally, paving the way for negotiations to end the country's grinding racial conflict.

Mandela had previously refused several offers of freedom, turning down government demands that he renounce violence as a condition of his release.

The Sunday Times, a nationally circulated broadsheet, devoted its entire front page to a photo of de Klerk and Mandela, topped by the banner headline ''Here He Is.''

The photograph, released Saturday, is the first published photo in 24 years of the nationalist hero, whose name is synonymous with the fight against racial inequality but whose aging face has been virtually unknown to all except family members, ministers and lawyers allowed to visit with him.

Mandela's release came nine days after de Klerk announced unprecedented reform measures in an effort to create a climate of trust to begin power-sharing negotiations to end the country's grinding racial conflict.


The measures included the lifting of the ban on the ANC and the Communist Party, the freeing of Mandela and a partial easing of the state of emergency.

De Klerk, who said Saturday his goal is equal citizenship for all South Africans, said the issue of the return of exiles and freedom for political prisoners could be discussed in further negotiations. Lifting the emergency would depend on the ''situation on the ground,'' saying that an absence of political strife and violence would lay the groundwork for cancelling the emergency declaration.

Shortly before de Klerk appeared in an auditorium in the government offices named after Hendrik F. Verwoerd -- the former prime minister known as the architect of grand apartheid -- nearly 2,000 white extremists marched through Pretoria to chants of ''Hang Mandela!''

De Klerk has said the government remained concerned about threats against Mandela's life from radical forces not only on the right but the left as well.

Before ending his speech, Mandela quoted from the words he spoke during his 1964 trial: ''I have carried the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. 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.''


The rally ended with the crowd singing the black nationalist anthem, ''Nkosi Sikilele iAfrica,'' or ''God Bless Africa'' in Zulu.

Amid concerns over Mandela's security, Saki Macozoma, liaison officer for the South African Council of Churches, declined to say where Mandela would spend his first night of freedom. Mandela, expected to arrive in Johannesburg Monday, canceled a news conference in Cape Town scheduled for Sunday evening.

Mandela's release drew praise from government and civil rights leaders worldwide, and some countries said the measure was enough to warrant a lifting of economic sanctions against South Africa.

President Bush on Saturday praised the announcement of Mandela's release and invited both Mandela and de Klerk to Washington.

Denmark announced it would lift sanctions against South Africa, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher suggested that the European Community could now lift its sanctions, imposed as a means of protest against apartheid.

Most black leaders worldwide hailed the release but urged Pretoria to enact more reforms, and called on the international community to continue sanctions until apartheid policies and segregation laws are abolished.

''We only hope de Klerk does more since the ball is in his court,'' ANC National Executive Committee member Joe Slovo said in Lusaka, Zambia, on returning from talks in Stockholm, Sweden, with ANC president Oliver Tambo.


In a front-page editorial commentary Sunday, Rapport, South Africa's leading Afrikaans language newspaper with close government contacts, wrote that de Klerk had extended a hand to blacks and asked for blacks to reciprocate.

''May this gesture be answered by the other side in generous measure and with the same consciousness of responsibility even now after Mr. Mandela's release,'' the newspaper wrote. ''South Africa's people seek freedom. They look to their leaders to put an end to the spiral of violence.''

Police, anxious to control enthusiastic crowds and protect Mandela from threatened violence, had set up road blocks a mile and a half from the gates of the prison outside Cape Town, forcing hundreds of jubilant spectators to abandon their cars and form a festive parade on foot down a road lined with grape vineyards.

When Mandela emerged through the prison gates, police cleared a path with a team of motorcycle outriders as helicopters swirled overhead.

Mandela has been living in a former warden's cottage at the Victor Verster facility since December 1988, after moving from the maximum security Robbin Island prison off the Cape Town coast.

Immediately following his release, the silver-haired Mandela was scheduled to be driven into Cape Town for a news conference and rally in the heart of the city.


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