It Was 20 Years Ago Today:
REMEMBERING NELSON MANDELA'S RELEASE FROM JAIL
By Danny Schechter
It was 20 years ago this Thursday February 11th when Nelson Mandela's Liberation Band began to play.
While tens of millions looked on, a great drama was building steam in South Africa. Nelson Mandela had been incarcerated in a small house, now a national heritage site, at Victor Verster Prison for 14 months. It was a far cry from the isolated Robben Island dungeon he spent so many years confined to, but, after 27 years, he was not yet free. That was about to change.
While the media focus was on Mandela as a heroic personality, his release was not just granted by the Apartheid regime. It was won. Years earlier, the ANC made the decision to mount a campaign around him, assuring he would become a well-known personality and icon. His life story became the stuff of legends His face popped up on T-shirts and posters; his name achieved brand status.
A lawyer by training, he had himself negotiated the terms of his release--and, earlier, the freeing of his key comrades with government ministers and officials. There had been many secret meetings in prison and out. He had refused all conditions including the demand that he forsake violence. He had insisted on walking out of the prison on his own steam, fist in the air. By then, Madiba, as he is known by a clan name, was the best-known political prisoner in the world.