Airdate: May 25, 1999
The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela
David Fanning, Indra deLanerolle, Producers
Clifford Bestall, Director
John Carlin, Interviewer & Writer
NARRATOR: He was born Rolihlahla, "Shaker of Trees." He became Nelson Mandela and shook the world.
NELSON MANDELA: And we won peace standing on our feet, not kneeling on our knees!
NARRATOR: We know him as the peacemaker, the president of a new South Africa. But as he prepares to pass his legacy to the next generation, FRONTLINE tells the intimate and surprising story of a Mandela few people know, a bomb-throwing revolution who became a skilled politician in prison, a passionate man who sacrificed the love of his life for a country that needed him more.
This is the story of a remarkable man of the century who united a nation and inspired the world. The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela tonight on FRONTLINE.
February 11, 1990. The eyes of the world fixed on a prison near Cape Town.
NEWS REPORTER: No word as yet of Mr. Mandela.
NARRATOR: It was a name that resonated in every corner of the planet.
NEWS REPORTER: We're waiting for the release of Mr. Mandela.
NARRATOR: But the man behind the name remained a mystery.
NEWS REPORTER: Any moment now. Any moment.
NARRATOR: Who had he become in the long years away, and could he live up to all the expectations? The last step on his walk to freedom had begun.
The last time the world had seen him was three decades earlier on his way into court.
NEWS REPORTER: The accused are Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Walter Max Sisulu, Govan Archibald Mbeki-
GOVAN MBEKI, Accused: I remember the day we were arrested. I quickly went 'round our chaps, and without saying a word, I indicated that- [draws hand across throat]
NEWS REPORTER: They're charged on two counts of sabotage, one of contravening the suppression of communism-
NARRATOR: The penalty for sabotage was hanging.
WALTER SISULU, Accused: There's no way in which we can avoid death, and therefore I should go to the gallows singing.
NARRATOR: In his cell, Mandela labored at a speech that he would deliver from the dock.
READER: "My lord, I am the first accused."
NARRATOR: It amounted to his political will and testament.
READER: "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony.
ANTHONY SAMPSON, Editor, "Drum" Magazine, Mandela's Biographer: I saw the speech after he'd asked me to give some advice on it. It was fascinating to see it in his own handwriting. But then I thought how immensely honestly and clearly he saw his development from the tribal chief's son to the urban politician.
READER: "In my youth, I would sit and listen to the stories of the elders of my tribe telling about the old days, the names of Dingane and Bambata-
NARRATOR: The name he was given at birth was Rolihlahla, "Shaker of Trees," or "Troublemaker."
Chief ANDERSON JOYI: He is of the royal house, as we are.
NARRATOR: He grew up in the royal kraal of the Madiba clan. He had the privilege of a good education at mission school and then at college. When he returned home, his guardian, Jongintaba, the regent king, expected him to become a tribal councilor. The king had chosen his bride-to-be.
Chief JONGINYANISO MTIRARA: He wanted to take that girl and get her married to Rolihlahla Mandela.
NARRATOR: But Rolihlahla rebelled. Defying the king, he ran away.
Chief NDABA MTIRARA: He also told us, Mr. Mandela, that the woman he was supposed to marry was very, very ugly, and that that was another reason why he had to run from Mquekazeni to Joburg.
NARRATOR: Mandela arrived in Johannesburg in 1941 with nothing but his suit and his aristocratic demeanor.
JOE MATTHEWS, College Classmate: He was different. Mandela's clothes always looked as if they had been specially picked to fit him exactly. Where he picked it up I don't know. It's just a characteristic of his. And maybe it's- it reflects a kind of ego.
NARRATOR: In the city he met a man who would shape his destiny. His name was Walter Sisulu.
WALTER SISULU: I was an estate agent at the time, and I was also active in politics. And when a young man, a person of Nelson's nature, came, it was a Godsend to me.
FIKILE BAM, Student in 1950s: Sisulu had been looking, particularly amongst students, you know, as to whom they could entice onto the movement. Nelson was Walter's choice.
WALTER SISULU: He told me he wanted to do law, and that fitted me, too, because politics and law came together.
LARS SIDELSKY, Lawyer: Walter Sisulu was in and out of our offices. And one day he came along, and he said would I help a young man. He's from the Transkei. He actually comes from royalty. Seeing that I'm doing so much black business, he could be useful, and could I article him. I promptly appointed him.
NARRATOR: Mandela was living in a segregated township. He studied law by candlelight. Merging with the voteless masses, he faced the daily indignities of black urban life.
ANTHONY SAMPSON, Editor, "Drum" Magazine, Mandela's Biographer: The humiliation, the anonymity, the jungle of Johannesburg as it was then- I think that was more of a shock, probably, than Mandela's ever quite been able to describe.
The city life made him feel that he was part of a much larger society who were suffering in a way that he hadn't properly comprehended, or hadn't felt before he came to Johannesburg. So I think it was a combination of the personal humiliations which were almost visible every day, together with the awareness of being part of this bigger scene.
LARS SIDELSKY: When he joined, he was given money to go and buy some new teacups so that he should drink his tea in separate-
NAT BERGMAN, Lawyer: -cups to the whites.
LARS SIDELSKY: -cups, yeah.-
NAT BERGMAN: -to the white people.
LARS SIDELSKY: Yeah.
NAT BERGMAN: Because in those days, obviously, the black employees had their own tin cups, and the white employees had the china cups.
JOE MATTHEWS, African National Congress (1944-93): He was the tea man, Mandela, and he was told, "Now, these are the cups for the white people, and these are the cups for the black people. Those are your cups," you see. And along comes this man, and he takes one of the white cups. Mandela protests, "No, no, no, no, no. These are your cups." His friend sort of said, "That's nonsense," you see? It was one of his first political lessons.
NARRATOR: Mandela's political education was the job of Sisulu, a young star in the African National Congress.
ANTHONY SAMPSON: I think Sisulu represented the mastery of the city and of the politics of the city. After all, at that time Mandela was still the country boy. We would still say he is, but he was more obviously the country boy then, who didn't really know his way around town.
WALTER SISULU: I thought Nelson had even better qualities than me. I was also encouraged by flexibility, by his ability to change, by his attitude to people. Amazing.
ANTHONY SAMPSON: He was like a boxing manager with the champ. Sisulu talks about Mandela rather in that way, you know. He reports on his progress, and "He's doing even better than I expected."
FIKILE BAM, Student in 1950s: Walter's spoken English was better than Nelson's spoken English, so although- although Nelson had the better education, he sorted him out and brightened him up, as it were, for the roles which he was to play.
NARRATOR: Sisulu bought Mandela a suit for his graduation.
LARS SIDELSKY: When he came to me for his testimonial, which was necessary for his admission as an attorney, I said, "I'm sorry. I'm not giving it to you." So he said, "Why?" I said, "You are associated with Walter Sisulu. And please, Nelson, stand out as one black attorney who knows what to do and what not to do. You are doing well. You will do well. Please keep out of politics."
And he hesitated. He said, "All right." This was the first lie he told me, I think that he ever told me.
NARRATOR: Mandela was, in fact, emerging as a leader in his own right, and already getting into arguments with his mentor, Sisulu. The debate was whether Africans should fight alone or alongside Indians and whites. Mandela, the proud tribal leader, was staunchly in the Africanist camp.
WALTER SISULU: The question of Indians and whites disturbed him in one way, that they wanted- they undermined that pride in him to do something as a leader of the African people.
WOLFIE KODESH, South African Communist Party: Mandela was going for the communists and going for the Indians. He grabbed hold of Yusuf Cachalia off a platform and threw him off, as though he were a dog, you know? Of course, he was a big, strong man.
AMINA CACHALIA, Indian Congress: When Nelson's suspicions about the Indians came to the fore, it was Walter who said to him, "These guys are good, you know. They mean well. They- they're with us." And Nelson didn't believe him. He was very skeptical.
NARRATOR: Mandela changed his mind in the face of a new government repression. The African population especially hated the pass laws. They controlled their movements and kept them out of white areas. Failure to carry the passbooks risked arrest and imprisonment. The ANC rose up against the system that came to be known as apartheid.
NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: In Johannesburg, there was staged last weekend the first move in a campaign that may lead to civil disobedience. Thousands of colored people went to attend a protest meeting called by the African National Congress. This campaign would urge all colored people to break the unjust laws and to court arrest.
JOE MATTHEWS, African National Congress (1944-93): That moment marked a very important step in the movement of Mandela towards leadership of the ANC. He was the first person the following year to volunteer to go to prison as a person who was going to defy unjust laws, and was, in fact, appointed as the national volunteer-in-chief.
NARRATOR: Smiling for the cameras, Mandela deliberately invited arrest when he burned his passbook, the image designed to inspire by example.
JOE MATTHEWS: Many of us thought of him as a kind of Garibaldi, not the thinker, but the warrior, the brave chap who is ready to do anything which has danger in it. This was a fearless man who may not have considered everything.
ANTHONY SAMPSON, Editor, "Drum" Magazine, Mandela's Biographer: He was always a master of imagery. He always looked right for the part. His smile, which was almost too good to be true - you know, that wide, wide smile - was rather a showman's or a show-biz smile, perhaps, which made some people, including myself, a bit skeptical about what really lay behind the show.
NARRATOR: Behind it was, for those times, an extraordinary ambition.
JOE MATTHEWS: Mandela made a speech, as leader of the Youth League, in which he predicted that he would be the first president of South Africa. Now, this was quite resented because you had the leader of the ANC there, you had the leader of the provincial ANC, my father, there. And then you had this upstart Mandela getting up, and as part of his speech saying that he is looking forward to becoming the first president of a free republic of South Africa.
NARRATOR: Within the confines of apartheid Johannesburg, he was already a king of the city.
ADELAIDE TAMBO, Wife of Oliver Tambo: The first time when I saw him, it was at the Bantu Men's Social Center. He was tall, elegantly dressed. I wanted to know who he was and what he was doing. So they said he's an outstanding African leader.
NARRATOR: With Adelaide's husband, Oliver Tambo, he set up a law firm. Among the small black elite, he was an admired figure.
ANTHONY SAMPSON: Well, he was certainly a ladies' man, and was- was proud of it. And he took tremendous troubles with his appearance and was tremendously admired by many women, without question.
NARRATOR: He was, however, married to Evelyn, a relative of Sisulu's. They had three children. At home in Soweto, they fought over other women and his all-consuming political work. She left. They separated. Mandela now shared his bed with a friend.
JOE MATTHEWS: We had a very big bed, thank God. I mean, he put his head on the pillow, and he was gone. He slept, but woke up sharply just before his exercises had to start.
NARRATOR: He had taken up boxing to keep fit.
JOE MATTHEWS: He was fond of being completely naked, then washing himself all over, you see? I would feel a bit uneasy, but he was very- he was sort of almost showing off, you know, his lovely body.
NARRATOR: The boxer dropped his guard in the summer of 1957.
ADELAIDE TAMBO: It was raining hard one afternoon. Oliver greeted us from inside the car, and he said, "This is Winnie Madikizele from Bizana." And Nelson answered, "Oh." I'll tell you what I noticed. As the car was pulling away, he was standing on the pavement, and he watched the car move. And I also saw Winnie turning back and looking at him.
NARRATOR: Winnie was 22, 16 years younger than Nelson.
AMINA CACHALIA: She was wonderfully shy and beautiful and didn't have much to say for herself then. Nelson did a lot of the talking.
JOE MATTHEWS: No, she was never a shy girl. From the word go, she was, I mean, obviously community-oriented. She was a social worker. She- she could speak. She was articulate.
FATIMA MEER, Family Friend and Biographer: Winnie didn't know how to drive a car. Nelson decided to teach her, never realizing that that lesson would bring out all the fire between them, but in a manner which was different from the fire in the bedroom. So there was this conflict. He found her almost unteachable. One thing often recurs. When he talks about her to her, he often says, "You are highly undisciplined."
NARRATOR: The rules of the love affair were dictated by Mandela's unbreakable contract with his political cause. She would battle to find her place among the dominant figures of the African resistance.
FATIMA MEER: I know that Moses Kotane made a terrible statement when Nelson introduced her, and he said that "Such beauty does not suit a revolutionary." Nelson had thought that very amusing, and turned 'round, and repeated that to Winnie. Winnie had been furious. Winnie always wanted to be understood and accepted beyond her physical appearance. She wanted to be accepted for herself. She was a very strong personality all along.
NARRATOR: She would need all that strength. The wedding pictures do not reveal the security policemen who were mingling with the guests. At the reception, Winnie's father warned, "This marriage will be no bed of roses. It is threatened from all sides."
WALTER CRONKITE, CBS News: It happened on Monday, March 21st, 1960-
NARRATOR: In the township of Sharpeville, a protest against pass laws sparked a ferocious response.
WALTER CRONKITE: Police mounted on tanks opened fire; 69 natives were killed, 176 wounded. Most of the victims were shot in the back. Some of the dead were children and-
NARRATOR: The government proclaimed a state of emergency and declared the ANC illegal. A new era of repression had begun.
Mandela evaded arrest. Leaving Winnie with two baby girls, he went underground. He hid in a white suburb, in the apartment of a young communist. Outside, the crackdown continued.
WOLFIE KODESH, South African Communist Party: A message came through about some Africans who'd got killed by the police, and he paced up and down, you know, there in the flat, and I could see he was fuming, you know? And then he- then he blurted out- he said, "You know, Wolfe, one day, I'm telling you, it's going to be an eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth." And he kept on pacing.
About an hour afterwards, he tapped me on the shoulder and he said, "Wolfe, I didn't mean that at all. I could never do that." Interesting, isn't it?
NARRATOR: Walled inside the apartment, Mandela was straining to stay loyal to the ANC principle of nonviolence. He summoned the media to help him push a reluctant ANC down a new road.
ITN REPORTER: I went to see the 42-year-old African lawyer, Nelson Mandela, the most dynamic leader in South Africa today. The police were hunting for him at the time, but African nationalists had arranged for me to meet him at his hide-out. He is still underground.
NARRATOR: The reporter was taken to Wolfie Kodesh's apartment.
ITN REPORTER: Is there any likelihood of violence?
NELSON MANDELA: There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and nonviolence against a government whose reply is only savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people. And I think the time has come for us to consider, in the light of our experiences, whether the methods which we have applied so far are adequate.
NARRATOR: A stormy debate ensued within the ANC. Mandela was reprimanded, but his arguments prevailed. He was secretly appointed commander-in-chief of the new armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, "Spear of the Nation." The lawyer was going to war.
WOLFIE KODESH: I said, "Have you read this Clausewitz?" which I had. "It's like reading Shakespeare for English classics. You have to read Clausewitz for warfare, you know?" And I took it out and gave it to him. And he said, "Can I underline and everything in this book?" So I said, "It's yours. You do what you like." And he sat there making notes for days on end.
NARRATOR: The next step put theory into practice at a deserted brickyard. Mandela, Kodesh and a World War II veteran, Jack Hodgson, drove out to test their first bomb.
WOLFIE KODESH: We went on the fringes of the and put the canister down into the hole. Nothing happened. So we had to get down into the hole to bring it up again, and then Hodgson sort of adjusted it. It was put down again in the hole. I think it must have been about 10 seconds when there was this terrific blast, but the dust just rose up. We tumbled into the car. He was overjoyed. He was congratulating everyone.
NARRATOR: The targets were identified- installations initially, not people. Mandela and the high command mapped out a sabotage campaign. The date for the first attacks was December 16th, 1961.
JOE MATTHEWS, African National Congress (1944-93): From the beginning, Mandela did envisage a guerrilla army developing out of this. Others thought we were only going to employ violence on symbolic targets, but Mandela was never a pacifist or, you know, someone who was worried about loss of life.
NARRATOR: Mandela's bombs rattled the white government. Among blacks, Mandela's legend grew. To the police, he was South Africa's most wanted man. The press dubbed him the "Black Pimpernel."
Mandela escaped the country and flew north to get backing from Africa's freedom movements to build his dream of a guerrilla army.
ANTHONY SAMPSON, Editor, "Drum" Magazine, Mandela's Biographer: There was an optimism throughout the whole of Africa about victories being quite soon and quite rapid, and also quite painless. In South Africa, a lot of black politicians were misled by that, including Mandela, to thinking it was going to be an easy walk to freedom.
NARRATOR: In Algeria he learned to handle weapons, but his trainers poured cold water on his notion of overthrowing the apartheid state by force of arms. In London he met with his old partner, Oliver Tambo, now leading the ANC in exile.
After six months abroad, Mandela stole back into South Africa, summoned to a farmhouse in Rivonia, north of Johannesburg, where Walter Sisulu and other ANC underground leaders had set up their clandestine headquarters.
FATIMA MEER, Family Friend and Biographer: He took chances. He would have the family visit him over weekends. Winnie would take the children over there.
NARRATOR: These snatched embraces would be their last intimacy for a long, long time.
Caged in his Rivonia hide-out, Mandela was arguing with his comrades again. He was itching to risk a cross-country trip to report on his African mission to the older leaders of the ANC.
GOVAN MBEKI, Umkhonto we Sizwe: My view was that he should not go.
AHMED KATHRADA, Umkhonto we Sizwe: He was already well-known. His photographs had appeared, and this beard was very well-known. And we had suggested that he should shave off that beard. He refused. He's not without some weaknesses, one of which is vanity.
WOLFIE KODESH: I can remember Kathrada actually saying that he would take the message down because it was too risky. He said no, it was his duty. He was going to go down.
NARRATOR: He drove 300 miles to the city of Durban.
FATIMA MEER: There was this party. We all arrived, all his friends. We had a lovely, lovely party, and there he was, all dressed up in his guerrilla uniform, looking very splendid, very broad-shouldered, not the man you see today. His face also was, you know, rounder. And then he left from that house.
NARRATOR: The police were waiting for him. The state lacked evidence to link him to sabotage. The charges were leaving the country illegally and inciting strikes. At the trial, he would respond by turning the law court into a political stage.
WOLFIE KODESH: I can never forget this. It was amazing. When he came up, you know - and he's this tall, big, athletic man - he had a- like a karos, you know, like a skin across here, beads 'round his neck, beads 'round his arms. As he came up, there was a complete hush. And even the policemen, they went pale to see this huge man in his national costume. And that magistrate just looked, and he couldn't find his voice!
MAC MAHARAJ, Umkhonto we Sizwe: He went with this speech, "I am a black man in a white man's court." It electrified the nation.
NARRATOR: He was sentenced to five years.
MAC MAHARAJ: "Madiba is now in prison, but the Walters and all are around. Don't worry. Madiba is not even going to serve his five years. We're getting him out of prison. We're taking the country the Castro way." Our songs were, "One stick, two sticks, six sticks of dynamite. We take the country the Castro way."
NARRATOR: It would never happen. Sisulu and the others continued unaware that the police noose was tightening. When the police raided, they caught the core of the underground leadership. They found a treasure of evidence, including maps and papers linking Mandela to plans for a guerrilla war. This time Mandela and the others faced death by hanging.
GEORGE BIZOS, Defense Lawyer: They all put on a brave front, but we were very concerned. We discussed whether or not we should immediately give notice of appeal if the death sentence was imposed. They unanimously decided that we should not.
READER: "My lord I am the first accused."
NARRATOR: In his cell, Mandela drafted a speech whose words would ring around the world. Less a defense than a manifesto, he strove to end his performance not with a plea, but with a challenge.
READER: "I have cherished the ideal for a free and democratic society. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve, but it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
GEORGE BIZOS: When we got the first draft, a shiver went down my back, and I said, "Nelson, you know that this may be misinterpreted, and they'll say that you are actually seeking martyrdom, and I don't like it."
GOVAN MBEKI, Umkhonto we Sizwe: You can't say to the judge, "You can do what you damn well want to do," which was the effect of what Nelson had put in his original draft. And then I introduced my wording, which was softer- "If need be, so let it be."
NARRATOR: Mbeki and Bizos prevailed. The court delivered its judgment.
JUDGE: I am by no means convinced that the motives of the accused were as altruistic as they wish the court to believe. The sentence in the case of all the accused will be one of life imprisonment.
MAC MAHARAJ, Umkhonto we Sizwe: There was jubilation because we thought that the struggle was still going to be longer than we had thought, but it was still going to be victorious. So they had lived, and we would see them alive.
WINNIE MANDELA: I shall never lose hope, and my people shall never lose hope. In fact, we expect that the work will go on.
NARRATOR: The prisoners set off on a long journey, their destination an island in the South Atlantic off the coast of Cape Town.
ANDREW MLANGENI, Sentenced to Life: On the 13th of June, 1964, very early in the morning, we were flown to Robben Island. We arrived there, I think, at about quarter to 9:00 in the morning- extremely cold day. They said it was the coldest day, I think, in 10 years or something. Our morale came down. We realized that we are going to be here for a very, very long time.
NARRATOR: Robben Island was the prison where South Africa banished its most dangerous criminals. The new political prisoners were put to hard labor in a quarry. Mandela was 46 years old.
NEVILLE ALEXANDER, Sentenced to 10 Years: When you think back to it, you know, you almost can't believe that you survived it, you know? They made us fill a wheelbarrow, as a unit standard, with crushed stone, and the pace at which you had to do it, and no intervals, nothing of that kind were allowed.
ANDREW MLANGENI: You were told to produce so much of the lime, and if you don't produce that amount, you are going to be punished.
JACK SWART, Prison Guard: [through translator] When they worked in the quarry, we were ordered to note every time they stopped to rest. They could only stop to go to the toilet. If they took a break at any other time, they were charged.
NARRATOR: Communication between prisoners was forbidden. They had to work and eat in silence.
READER: "My Dearest Winnie: I have not had a letter from you. I feel as dry as a desert. Letters from you are like the arrival of summer rains and spring that enliven my life. I become full of love."
NARRATOR: Mandela could only send or receive letters once every six months. Each one was closely read, copied and passed on to be read again by the security police. Suspicious phrases were cut out and filed. Letters were held back, sometimes destroyed. Prisoners were not allowed to own watches. The pace of life was dictated by sirens or shouts from the warders.
FIKILE BAM, Sentenced to 10 Years: We couldn't afford to think of a life sentence in real terms, that it meant just what it said, that life- it was, in fact, a condition of our survival in prison to believe that we'd be out of prison during our lifetime. Nelson actually lived that belief.
READER: "My Darling Winnie: I have been fairly successful in putting on a mask behind which I have pined for the family alone, never rushing for the post when it comes until somebody calls out my name. I am struggling to suppress my emotions as I write this letter."
NARRATOR: Mandela's self-control was tested. A telegram arrived saying his firstborn son, Thembi, had died in a car crash.
AHMED KATHRADA, Sentenced to Life: Walter went into his cell. He told Walter what had happened, and Walter, of course, conveyed this to us. But he doesn't show this emotion. He feels it deep down inside, but he doesn't show it.
NARRATOR: Mandela was refused permission to attend the funeral. His son had never forgiven him for sacrificing his family on the battleground of politics.
Chief ANDERSON JOYI: [through interpreter] Suppose your next of kin has passed away. You fail to contain yourself, your enemy will get a chance and strike. But if you can contain your emotions, he won't be able to do that, to strike at you.
NARRATOR: Mandela's enemies used his family to strike at him. A newspaper cutting mysteriously appeared in his cell. Winnie had been cited in a divorce.
FIKILE BAM: Although it had been made to look as if someone, you know, had just slipped it there, it had been deliberately been put there so that Nelson could see it and so that it would hurt him.
FATIMA MEER, Family Friend and Biographer: One of the strategies that the system used was to try and torment him, to torture him with stories about her infidelity. And I don't think Nelson could take that. It really upset him very much.
NARRATOR: The article alleged that Winnie had been having an affair with a man identified by other prisoners as a police informer.
NEVILLE ALEXANDER, Sentenced to 10 Years: He made a point of calling us in and talking to us about it because he felt that it was politically essential and that that kind of information should not affect our attitude towards the ANC.
NARRATOR: Whether he believed it or not, Mandela defended his wife.
NEVILLE ALEXANDER: It wasn't the reaction of a cuckold. He took the blame immediately. He felt that it was through his neglect that his wife may have been tempted - he didn't say she was - may have been tempted to do what she was alleged to have done.
FIKILE BAM: He stood by his wife, Winnie, and didn't move an inch. I think, in fact, his relationship with his wife became stronger.
NARRATOR: Mandela would never forget the warders' attempts to rob him of his dignity. It was something, he wrote in his autobiography, that he "would not part with at any price".
RICHARD STENGEL, Co-Writer of Mandela's Autobiography, '93-'94: I remember when I first went to Robben Island. And I had been working with him for some months, and he's a big man in every way. And when one of the warders took me to his cell and opened the door, I gasped when I saw it. I- I- there wasn't room for a human being, much less Nelson Mandela, this outsized human being.
And in a strange way that cell modeled him. His world became constricted, and in a way, that allowed him to become bigger because it gave him self-control.
NARRATOR: Prison disciplined his militancy, compelling him to devise new strategies for engaging with the enemy.
NEVILLE ALEXANDER: It was really a war of nerves between the warders and ourselves, and it was a question of who was going to set the pattern. Mandela made the point, "If they say that you must run, insist on walking. If they say you must walk fast, insist on walking slowly."
MAC MAHARAJ, Sentenced to 12 Years: Mandela quietly emerges in the front row and whispers to all of us, "Don't succumb to these threats. Just walk at your normal, steady pace." You were not arguing with the warder. You were not standing up in open defiance, but you quietly maintained a part which the warders found themselves helpless to confront.
WALTER SISULU, Sentenced to Life: That changed the situation because when they could not now get us to move, they were faced with the question what to do. They then decided to recognize the leadership. That moment was of importance.
NARRATOR: Mandela's method was to challenge the warders on each and every personal indignity.
JACK SWART, Prison Guard: [through translator] I used to drive them to the quarry. I was ordered to give them a rough ride so they wouldn't be too comfortable at the back. One day, he knocked on my window and demanded, "What the hell do you think we are, a bag of corn?" I just wound up my window and drove off.
NEVILLE ALEXANDER: Nelson got so fed up with a warder that he actually got up and said, "Look, you don't dare talk to us like that," and went for him. So I then asked Mandela afterwards, I said, "But you know, what happened- why did you do that?" And he said to me - and I'll never forget it. He said to me, "That was very deliberate." And I must say, I didn't initially believe him, but when I thought about it, you know, he is so deliberate.
NARRATOR: Step by measured step, he was imposing his will on his captors.
GEORGE BIZOS, Mandela's Lawyer: There were eight warders with him. Prisoners usually do not set the pace at which they move with their warders, but it was quite obvious that he was. Nelson said, "Hello." He then pulled himself back and said, "George, I'm sorry. I have not introduced you to my guard of honor." And they actually behaved like a guard of honor. They respectfully shook my hand.
RICHARD STENGEL, Co-Writer of Mandela's Autobiography: One of the things that Robben Island taught him is that if he maintained his dignity, if he insisted on being treated the way a man should be treated, then he could bend the authorities on Robben Island to his will. "These are the most unrepentant racists in the world, and if they can treat me with dignity, and be taught to treat me with dignity," as he did teach them, then he realized he could do it in the wider world.
NARRATOR: Twelve years had passed since Mandela had been banished to the island. Throughout South Africa his words, even his image were banned. To a young generation growing up in Soweto, he was more myth than man.
TOKYO SEXWALE, Sentenced to 18 Years: You are a young man, and you end up in Mandela's house. Here are his books, the original law books that he was using, full of dust. Here is his legal gown. Here is his chair. This is Mandela's bed. Here is a doorknob which he used to open every morning as the father of the house.
NARRATOR: It was the children of Soweto who were to resurrect the cause.
Not far from Mandela's house, high school students gathered to protest their inferior education. It was the start of the rebellion of 1976. Hundreds died, thousands fled the country. The young leaders were arrested and thrown into prison.
MURPHY MOROBE, Sentenced to 7 Years: We could not wait to get to Robben Island, largely because we'd heard about Nelson Mandela. It was something that we looked forward to almost like the culmination of one's initiation, you know, as young people.
TOKYO SEXWALE: When we arrived there, a lot of us were young. Our hands are still smelling of gunpowder. We want to cause strikes in prison. We want to take over. We want to run our lives here.
STRINI MOODLEY, Sentenced to 5 Years: Ours was an aggressive approach. We entered upon hunger strikes. We refused to work. We refused to be locked up. We did all those kinds of things, which was a very different from the way in which Nelson Mandela was doing it.
This group had become so isolated from the rest of the world. These men were trapped in a time warp. They were still living the era of the '50s. They hadn't actually come to terms and understood what was happening through the '60s and the '70s.
NARRATOR: But Mandela's approach had yielded results. Hard labor had gone. Prisoners could now study. For years he had mailed complaints to government and parliament. Eventually Jimmy Kruger, the minister of prisons, responded.
STRINI MOODLEY: This character, Kruger, came to Robben Island. The warders came into the section and said, "Right. All of you must shine your shoes and put on your jackets and dress up smartly." I said, "To hell with it."
Kruger duly came in, and I just lolled on my bed reading a magazine. The moment he passed my door, I got up and I looked, and there was Nelson standing at attention. And I just thought, "Oh!" I mean, I certainly didn't come to Robben Island to see all my- my dreams, my vision of a great revolutionary shattered like this.
NARRATOR: Winning over the young rebels was the new test of Mandela's leadership.
MAC MAHARAJ: There were prisoners who constantly got into an altercation with the prison warders and were punished. Mandela understood, and never said "That's the wrong reaction." What he did begin to say was, "You are not controlling that response."
NEVILLE ALEXANDER: Mandela's point really was, "Look, you're going to kill yourselves. These people are going to punish you until you collapse. And then, you know, you won't have gained anything from your imprisonment, whereas we can actually gain something from this."
NARRATOR: Outside the clampdown continued.
ANTHONY SAMPSON, Editor, "Drum" Magazine, Mandela's Biographer: I remember going back to South Africa. Mandela's name was not mentioned at all, even amongst black friends. The effectiveness of that embargo, of that law, of course, which forbade the mention, was amazing. He was in a gulag, in the Russian sense. To all intents and purposes, he had been forgotten.
NARRATOR: In 1977, there was an unusual invitation to a group of journalists.
ERIK VAN EES, Journalist: We got a call one day from the information ministry saying, "You really have got to come on this one."
NARRATOR: This secret film, taken by a government cameraman, would remain hidden of two decades.
PRISON OFFICIAL: [government video] I have invited the local and foreign news media to visit Robben Island in order to ascertain for themselves the true treatment circumstances of the prisoners incarcerated there for offenses against the security of the state.
ERIK VAN EES: And we all trooped in. They led us around. There was some guy saying, "Well, these are the kitchens." The kitchen looked very neat and tidy. And we walked through the various corridors and past the cells.
And we said, "Where's Mr Mandela's cell?" "There's Mr. Mandela's cell," the mat on the floor, and then the blankets and the pictures of Winnie, and the tomatoes. I checked all his books that he had there, the reading material, the legal books and the economics books.
We didn't see anybody. We kept saying, you know, "Where are the prisoners?" "Oh, they're out on the island doing their daily chores." "Where's Mr. Mandela?" And he said, "Well, he's on the island. Yes, he's here." "Can we see him?" "No, you can't because that's a prisoner's privilege not to talk to anybody without his permission."
So we said, "Yeah. Get out of here. You put him here. You can do anything you like." "No. I'm terribly sorry, but the rules say we can't." "Ah," we said, "he's dead." Christ, that really got a- that got a jump out of him! He said, "No, no! Absolutely not. He's perfectly healthy. He's very good health." "Well, let's have a look at him." "No."
But we nagged and nagged, and finally he said, "Well, okay. He's over there." And we turned. We were just on the outside of the buildings. We turned, and behind the rocks, or next to the rocks, was Nelson Mandela.
Some idiot from the Afrikaans press ran over to him shouting in Afrikaans. [speaks in Afrikaans] Well, Nelson just looked at them, saw a whole bunch of propaganda hacks, and wouldn't talk, wouldn't say anything. And that was it.
They were handing out photographs that were taken by an Information Department photographer. And I said, "Can I have that photograph?" "Who is this person?" I said, "That's Nelson Mandela." "No," they said, "it's not." And they quickly went [scratching noise] with a black pen and blacked out his face. And I snatched the picture and took out my handkerchief, went [scratching noise], tried to clean it. Well, the black pen won out.
ANNOUNCER: FRONTLINE will return in a moment.
The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela is made possible by support from Daimler-Chrysler, where different experiences, points of view come together in common purpose to build a new kind of global transportation company. Daimler-Chrysler.
NARRATOR: In 1980 Nelson Mandela had been on Robben Island for 13 years. Contact with the outside world was severely restricted. Winnie traveled the 1,000 miles from Soweto for encounters limited to 30 minutes.
FATIMA MEER: Every visit that Winnie made to Robben Island, she made it a special event. She dressed up to please Nelson. The short time that they spent together, even though it was divided by the glass pane, it was a very important event. After each visit, Nelson would write her a letter recounting the visit. He would savor it.
READER: "You looked really wonderful, very much like the woman I married. Your beautiful photo still stands above my left shoulder as I write this note. I dust it carefully every morning, for to do so gives me the pleasant feeling that I'm caressing you as in the old days. I even touch your nose with mine to recapture the electric current that used to flush through my blood when ever I did so."
NARRATOR: Since Mandela's imprisonment, Winnie, left alone with two young children, had been beaten, imprisoned, held in solitary confinement and put under house arrest. In 1977, she was banished with her younger daughter, Zindzi, to a remote country town far from her Soweto home.
ALLISTER SPARKS, Journalist: Winnie was absolutely irresistible copy at that time, while she was down in Brandfort. For one thing the security police and the dirty tricks operators kept attacking her, and they burnt her clinic and all sorts of things.
It suddenly became a very attractive story. Everybody started flocking to Brandfort, and Winnie then got on T.V., foreign T.V., and she was a celebrity in no time at all. It was a media event. They made presentations to her, and senators were seeing her. She was suddenly famous, and that did as much as anything to reignite the international image of Nelson Mandela.
Sen. TED KENNEDY: Winnie Mandela is a source of inspiration for people all over the world. She has demonstrated by her life and love of her family and love of her husband-
REPORTER: How was the meeting, Senator?
ALLISTER SPARKS: Winnie looked like a queen. She held court. I mean, she was the star. She reawakened dramatically the name of Mandela, and she spoke in his name.
WINNIE MANDELA: There will be one man, one vote in this country, and there will be a majority government in this country. That majority government will accommodate everybody.
REPORTER: Led by?
WINNIE MANDELA: Mandela.
NARRATOR: In the '80s, people were on the march again. The spirit of resistance caught fire. The youth heeded a call from the exiled ANC to make the townships ungovernable.
Breaking free from Brandfort, Winnie emerged as a leader in her own right.
WINNIE MANDELA: The time for speeches and debates has come to an end. We have no arms. We have stones. We have boxes of matches. We have [inaudible] Amandla!
NARRATOR: The youth took her message as encouragement to burn the black collaborators of the white state.
P.W. BOTHA, South African President: We are standing here firm, as a nation of white people.
NARRATOR: President P.W. Botha responded with brute force, dismissing any other option.
P.W. BOTHA: I am not considering even to discuss the possibility of black majority government in South Africa.
NEIL BARNARD, Head of Intelligence (1980-91): Mr. P.W. Botha was more or less born and bred within the security establishment, and who firmly believed that in some way or another we have to- well I wouldn't like to put it - to fight it out.
NARRATOR: Botha declared a state of emergency. He gave the security forces virtually unlimited powers to crush the revolt. The army, police and intelligence ran the country through a State Security Council.
NEIL BARNARD: At the time, I was head of the National Intelligence Service. There was a lot of difference within the South African bureaucracy, so to speak. We took the view that a political settlement is the only answer to the problems of this country.
NARRATOR: A secret document of the Security Council records a meeting where a proposal was discussed to release Mandela, but not before ensuring he would be incapable of resuming his leadership role. Neil Barnard was there.
NEIL BARNARD: [reading memo] "We have with us strategic advice as to regard the possibility of the release of Mr. Mandela. The circumstances must be in such a way that it is in favor of the South African government" is the first point. Second point, "He must be in a relatively physical bad situation," and then a so-called proactive communications action must be launched in that regard.
NARRATOR: In the Council's code, that meant poisoning or injuring Mandela. The plan was rejected. Pressure was mounting to free the prisoner who had become the symbol of liberation. Botha offered to release him, but only on the government's terms.
P.W. BOTHA: [to Parliament] If Mr Mandela gives a commitment that he will not make himself guilty of planning, instigating or committing acts of violence for the furtherance of political objectives, I will be in principle be prepared to consider his release.
ZINDZI MANDELA: My father says, "Let him renounce violence. Let him say that he will dismantle apartheid."
NARRATOR: Through his daughter, Zindzi, Mandela issued his first public statement in 21 years.
ZINDZI MANDELA: My father says, "Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return." Amandla!
NARRATOR: But behind the public sparring, the idea was beginning to form of making a more discreet approach. In the early '80s, Mandela, Sisulu and three others had been moved from the island to a prison on the mainland. Then, in 1985 Mandela was admitted to a whites-only hospital in Cape Town for prostate surgery. Winnie flew down to see him. The Minister of Justice just happened to have been on the same plane.
KOBIE COETSEE, Minister of Justice (1980-94): All of a sudden, I became aware of the presence of this very interesting and imposing woman. I recognized her of course, immediately. And there she was standing, and she didn't speak a word. She just indicated with her head that I was to move the briefcase. She wanted to sit next to me. I did so, and she sat next to me for the remainder of the flight.
REPORTER: Is there any question at all of his being released completely, at this stage, Mrs. Mandela?
WINNIE MANDELA: There has been no such suggestion whatsoever.
REPORTER: There's no negotiation to that effect going on?
WINNIE MANDELA: Not to my knowledge at all.
NARRATOR: But encouraged by Winnie, the minister hours later paid a secret visit to Mandela's private ward.
KOBIE COETSEE: He was sitting in a chair in a corner, hospital attire, but even that he wore with dignity. He was obviously well-liked by the hospital personnel, and yet he was suspected, even though they knew that he was a prisoner.
ALLISTER SPARKS, Journalist: They had all along believed that this was a fierce, radical, frightening, you know, revolutionary. On meeting him, they discovered he was a reasonable man, he understood white fears. That was when the idea started to come out, "Let's see if we can't lure him into something."
NARRATOR: In Pollsmoor prison, Mandela and his comrades had been sharing a large cell. When he returned from the hospital, he was isolated from them.
AHMED KATHRADA, ANC Prisoner: They didn't bring him back to us. So our instinct was to protest about this, that he is being punished. In retrospect, he already had in mind what he was going to do because when we said we wanted to protest, he said, "Cool it, chaps. Something good may come from here."
RICK STENGEL, Co-Writer of Mandela's Autobiography: He realized, "This is an opportunity. I'm by myself. I can do some things now that my colleagues, my trusted and close colleagues, cannot see because I'm not sure that they are ready to see this." A man from the ANC talking to the government about some kind of new dispensation- I mean that was anathema.
NARRATOR: Alone, Mandela took a historic decision. He wrote to Coetsee proposing talks. Outside the violence that Mandela had once encouraged was leading the country to the precipice. For a year he waited. Then one night, he was dressed in a suit and taken to the Minister's home.
KOBIE COETSEE, Minister of Justice (1980-94): My first objective was to be on an equal footing with him, so amongst other things, we prepared tea and snacks. We chatted for some time.
GEORGE BIZOS, Mandela's Lawyer: What they were saying to him, "You have an existence independent of this organization. You come with us, and we will settle the matter, and all will go well.
KOBIE COETSEE: He wanted me to accept that the ANC was interested in good governance, democracy, and that violence was not really on their agenda.
ALLISTER SPARKS, Journalist: So there they were, sort of sparring with each other, each trying to draw the other across to their point of view. He hoped that he could engage them into serious negotiations about unbanning the ANC and releasing prisoners and that kind of thing. So it was very much a case of, you know, who was the fish and who was the angler in this.
NARRATOR: For the next year, alone, he continued to meet secretly with Coetsee. Mandela the prisoner was persuading the government to recognize his status as a leader. Now he had to tell his own comrades.
AHMED KATHRADA, ANC Prisoner: So he took this first step without us knowing. They wouldn't allow him to see us together, said, "You can see them one by one." That's how he told us what he had done. And we reacted differently, of course. We were on different wavelengths. I completely opposed this thing.
GOVAN MBEKI, ANC PRISONER: I couldn't understand why he did not consult the comrades with whom he was at Pollsmoor except to say, which was his explanation, that he had given an undertaking to the cabinet ministers that he would not disclose the contents to anybody else.
NARRATOR: Mbeki smuggled a message out to the ANC in exile. Mandela's old friend, Oliver Tambo, now the ANC president, sent a secret note back questioning his judgment.
FRENE GINWALA, Assistant to Oliver Tambo: The ANC has a long tradition of collective leadership, and suddenly you had one of the leaders isolated, being drawn into a situation which was clearly a trap.
GEORGE BIZOS, Mandela's Lawyer: Reports were filtered to him that there was a concern that in his isolation he may be manipulated. He would chuckle at that and indicate, "Well, they don't have to worry," if there was any manipulation it was the other way around.
NARRATOR: In July, 1988, Mandela turned 70. With the ANC's blessing, concerts and demonstrations were held in celebration around the world. Mandela had become the defining image of the liberation struggle. But the actions of Mandela, the man, were causing grave disquiet.
RICK STENGEL, Co-Writer of Mandela's Autobiography: Within the ANC there was tremendous antagonism to him, people who thought he might have sold out, people who thought that he was too inflated with himself. There were so many rivalries, and there were so many people who were conspiring against him. He was very depressed.
GOVAN MBEKI, ANC Prisoner: He was brought up in an environment of chieftains, see? There he could do things without consultations. This was telling also on his style of work within the ANC.
WALTER SISULU, ANC Prisoner: Now, I regard as one of the most outstanding, courageous moments, when a man is alone in the face of that situation, particularly in politics, where you've got a lot of criticism from everywhere. He was confident of what line he was following.
NARRATOR: Mandela suddenly fell ill with tuberculosis. The news spread alarm in the government.
ALLISTER SPARKS, Journalist: Behind it all was this terrible fear on the part of the government that Mandela might die on them in prison. There's no way that the world wouldn't have believed they'd killed him, and they were absolutely terrified of the consequences, the international consequences of that, and of the explosion of the black population in South Africa.
NARRATOR: The government took an extraordinary step. They moved him to a house in the grounds of Victor Verster prison. Guards from Robben Island were assigned to watch over him.
JACK SWART, Prison Guard: [through interpreter] When visitors came, I was told to watch what they did. I was instructed not to listen to what they were saying. There were bugging devices that picked up everything that was said.
NARRATOR: Every sound in the house was recorded by four government intelligence agencies. Even the trees were bugged.
KOBIE COETSEE, Minister of Justice (1980-94): I was aware of the fact that he was monitored, but he also knew that. He also knew that.
NARRATOR: He could receive visitors at his new home, even prisoners from Robben Island.
TOKYO SEXWALE, Robben Island Prisoner: We were happy to see him so healthy. We forgot every other thing, embraced and- and we wanted to sing our revolutionary songs, all of us. And he started showing us around - "This is where I am." It's a beautiful house. "Oh, my God. There's a pool here." So our excitement begins to recede and the suspicions come. And I thought, "I think he has sold out."
FATIMA MEER, Family Friend and Biographer: Amazing, absolutely amazing. Here is Nelson at the door to receive you, immaculately dressed in a three-piece suit, and you wonder what on earth is going on here.
NARRATOR: Winnie was even allowed to stay overnight, but she refused. He could follow news of the outside world on T.V., including reports about Winnie's team of bodyguards, whom she called the Mandela United Football Club. Accusations flew of abductions, beatings and the murder of a young activist, Stompie Seipei.
JACK SWART, Prison Guard: [through interpreter] He was very upset about the Stompie story. He ordered her to come. It was the first time he took Winnie and his daughter, Zindzi, into the room he had prepared for her. He closed the door. I could hear him shouting. Later, when they came out, you could see they'd been crying. He was very upset about the Stompie incident.
After that, Winnie didn't come and visit. He would ask me why she didn't come. She would always have excuses. I realized that things were not going well between them anymore.
NARRATOR: The state was privy not just to Mandela's personal anguish, but to the political conflicts he was having with his skeptical comrades.
TOKYO SEXWALE, Robben Island Prisoner: Mandela had said the enemy is not surrendering. All he is left with is his army- intact. That's what Mandela said. All the enemy can do is go for a scorched-earth policy and ruin the country that we have struggled for so long.
NARRATOR: Mandela needed results.
NEIL BARNARD, Head of Intelligence (1980-91): Mr. Mandela became bit aggressive on not being allowed the opportunity of discussing with Mr. Botha.
NARRATOR: Finally, Barnard did fix a meeting. The two men argued in the car. Mandela had been demanding the release of Walter Sisulu as a sign of the government's serious intentions.
NEIL BARNARD: And I tried to convince him, "Don't mention Walter Sisulu. Listen to me. I know what is going on. If you mention the release of Walter Sisulu, Mr. Botha will say no.
FRENE GINWALA, Assistant to Mandela (1991-93): I asked Mandela what was his thinking before his first meeting with P.W. Botha. And he then said to me the one thing he knew that he was never going to allow was the way P.W. Botha had treated other African leaders, where he had lectured them. "He was never going to be allowed to treat me like that."
KOBIE COETSEE, Minister of Justice (1980-94): As they approached each other to say "How are you?" "How are you?" there was almost relief on both sides. I'll always have a vivid picture of that, of the relief between the two men.
RICK STENGEL: He spoke of P.W. Botha with such veneration, such affection. Why? Because the day that he met P.W., P.W. walked halfway across the room with his hand out to shake hands. P.W. had acted like a gentleman and had treated him like a gentleman.
NEIL BARNARD: It started off quite well, and then Mr. Mandela raised the issue of Sisulu. And strangely enough, Mr. Botha listened, and he said, "Barnard, I think we must- we must help him. I think it must be done, and you will give some attention to that."
NARRATOR: Mandela had been the first to offer peace talks, but it was Botha's government that made the first major concession. Within three months of the meeting, Walter Sisulu and the rest of the Rivonia prisoners would be released.
TOKYO SEXWALE: Mandela decided to go and say to the enemy, "Here is a white flag. I know you are afraid, but raise the flag." He blinked on behalf of the enemy and therefore gave the enemy the chance to retreat.
NARRATOR: Botha fell ill and resigned, but his meeting with Mandela had raised new expectations. His successor, F.W. de Klerk, arrived at the presidency, a politician born and bred in the conservative wing of the National Party. He was under irresistible pressure at home and abroad to act quickly.
ALLISTER SPARKS, Journalist: In exactly the same way as when Gorbachev embarked on his perestroika and glasnost - he certainly didn't have in mind the collapse of the Soviet Union and the whole Soviet empire - De Klerk came in there with a very, very convoluted concept. Anything they didn't like, anything that was going to change the structures of the status quo, they'd be able to veto. But first of all let's get the West on our side. Let's do the big deed, make a huge splash.
F.W. De KLERK, South African President: [in Parliament] The government has taken a firm decision to release Mr. Mandela unconditionally. I'm serious! I'm serious about bringing this matter to finality without delay.
NEWS REPORTER: Any moment now. Any moment. There's Mr. Mandela, Mr. Nelson Mandela, a free man, taking his first steps into a new South Africa. That is the man that the world has been waiting to see.
Archbishop DESMOND TUTU: He said he really was amazed it was multiracial, with so many white people. He really was- well, I mean he was over the moon, but he was also genuinely quite taken aback.
TOKYO SEXWALE: We had no tears on Robben Island. But you could feel them welling, but they didn't come out. There he was. All we could do was to hug one another and then shout, say anything. It's done. He's free.
GEORGE BIZOS, Mandela's Lawyer: I feared that I may have to make a speech at his funeral whilst he was in jail. That was the phobia that I lived with all the years. To see him free was really the realization of- of a dream for me.
NARRATOR: In Cape Town, a vast crowd waited all day for Mandela's first speech. The government was anxious.
NEIL BARNARD: Will it be possible for us to go through the next 24, 48, 72 hours without a major people's uprising, creating momentum where the one wave becomes two and the two becomes four and four becomes eight?
ALLISTER SPARKS: Mandela had become such a magical name that the day he was released, everything would be all right, it would all come right. We knew it wasn't going to get fixed in a day, but the expectations were such that this was going to be like the second coming of Christ.
NELSON MANDELA: I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people! I have placed the remaining years of my life in your hands.
NARRATOR: The next day, Mandela returned to the home in Soweto he had left three decades earlier.
FATIMA MEER, Family Friend and Biographer: They were as one, and very happy to be together, Winnie looking like a very shy bride, talking about how she doesn't know whether she should bring his slippers to his bedside or his clothes to him0 you know, dutiful wife.
JESSE DUARTE, Mandela's Assistant (1990-94): My first impression of him was that he was very quiet. He was listening to everybody very carefully. And then something quite incredible happened. He called her, "Zammi?" and she said, "Yes, Tata?" and he asked her something about making tea for the visitors. And I thought that was absolutely quite incredible. You know, he'd walked back into his house and took charge as the head of the house, in a home where Winnie was the head of the house for many years.
Winnie had grown into a very different person, very independent in her own right, also very adored by ordinary South African people. It was going to be very difficult for them to continue a relationship that hadn't been there for 27 years.
FATIMA MEER: Things fell apart between them because Nelson was now the supreme negotiator, and he also felt that during that period he should observe law and order of the apartheid state, because things were about to change. That made sense. Winnie still had that rebellious streak in her, and there were a lot of people who were like her, who didn't quite identify with the negotiation process that was going on. So there was a cleavage.
NARRATOR: The marriage came under visible strain. Winnie was facing charges in connection with the Stompie Seipei murder.
AMINA CACHALIA, Friend: He believed so in Winnie, that she could never have done what people were saying. All along, at that period, he did believe in her. He asked people to go to court to show support for her.
RICK STENGEL: One of the things he would always say to me- "What Winnie went through was much worse than what I went through. She's in solitary confinement for a year and a half. Why? I married her. She is separated from her children for, you know, months on end. Why? I married her." So I think he felt a lot of good, old-fashioned guilt about that.
NARRATOR: The trial went on for four months.
AMINA CACHALIA: He couldn't carry on living with Winnie under the same roof. She never went to bed unless he was asleep. He felt that she never wanted confrontation. She never wanted him to talk to her about anything. She never gave him the chance to.
NARRATOR: Winnie was found guilty of assault and kidnapping, but got off with a suspended sentence. Then one of her lawyers in the trial accompanied her on a trip to America.
AMINA CACHALIA: She was going abroad, and she was then taking a friend with her, Dali Mpofu with her, and he specifically asked her not to do that. And she said she wouldn't. He phoned her one night. Dali answered the telephone.
NARRATOR: Winnie had written Mpofu a love letter, which Nelson would have to read in the press.
Archbishop DESMOND TUTU: He loved her very deeply. And I don't think it's a hurt that he will have got over easily. You don't want me to talk to you about things that he would have shared, really, in very, very strict confidence, things that a man doesn't usually tell another man about things that are happening at home. He loved her very, very deeply, yeah.
FATIMA MEER: It didn't happen all of a sudden. He moved out of the house. She pleaded with him to return, and he didn't. And then you had the break.
NARRATOR: Just as had always done, Mandela consulted with Sisulu and the others to consider the political consequences. They joined him at a press conference.
NELSON MANDELA: My love for her remains undiminished. However, we have mutually agreed that a separation would be best for each one of us.
RICK STENGEL: What he hated about that, and what he hated about Winnie, is that she forced him to show emotion in public in a way that he never wanted to. That's what he hated.
NELSON MANDELA: Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you'll appreciate the pain I have gone through, and I now end this interview.
ANTHONY SAMPSON, Editor, "Drum" Magazine, Mandela's Biographer: I think the period after the separation from Winnie was probably the loneliest of all, and that was the worst of all periods. After all, it was an extraordinary time to be the most famous man in the world when you are also the loneliest one.
NARRATOR: Mandela had begun his relationship with de Klerk in a spirit of trust. Their mission was to hammer out a new political order and to carry with them a country brutalized by apartheid, threatened by violence. Mandela described de Klerk as a man of integrity.
F.W. De KLERK, State President (1989-94): I got to know him as a very good listener, as a man with a legal mind, coming forth, generally speaking, with reasonable replies and reactions towards requests, towards suggestions- solution-orientated.
FRENE GINWALA, Assistant to Mandela (1991-93): He was perhaps much more trusting of Mr. de Klerk than a lot of the rest of us were. I think whereas some of us saw de Klerk as having accepted the reality of negotiating with the genuine leaders, we didn't see him as a convert to democracy.
Archbishop DESMOND TUTU: There seemed to be a special kind of alchemy operating between them. But once they got onto this whole thing of how to deal with the violence, and they had their differences, there was only one way their relationship was going to go, and it was down.
NARRATOR: The violence had escalated dramatically since Mandela's release. The ANC believed the security forces had a hidden agenda to stall the move towards democracy by encouraging Zulu factions to go to war against their supporters. The bodies were piling up. Mandela asked to be taken to the scenes of the carnage.
JASON TSABALALA, Mandela's Bodyguard: It was a terrible sight, you know, to see women and young kids lying there. And the president was there, as well. It was a difficult sight.
JESSIE DUARTE, Mandela's Assistant (1990-94): I will never forget his face. He was deeply shocked by the fact that people will do this to each other. I had the view that Madiba hadn't actually ever confronted the cold face of the violence during the 27 years of his incarceration.
GEORGE BIZOS: He felt his release would be the end of a chapter of suffering. The organized killings were in his mind a negation of what he stood for.
NARRATOR: Mandela's supporters were questioning a decision he had taken to call off the armed struggle.
JESSIE DUARTE: I would stay in the crowd and just listen to what people were saying, and I would tell him. And people were singing a song. They were singing, "You are acting like a sheep, and the people are dying." And he said, "Well, I have to show them that I am not a sheep, and I am going to act very sternly."
GEORGE BIZOS: Mandela called for an urgent meeting with de Klerk in the middle of the night to say that,"You are the president. The violence is unacceptable. You, as president, can and must stop it."
F.W. De KLERK: His suspicion was that somehow or another I was not doing enough, or I don't have control. He would say to me, "But you are the president. You can stop the violence."
ALLISTER SPARKS, Journalist: He felt that de Klerk was not coming clean, that de Klerk knew of this, was not admitting it, even in their confidential one-on-one meetings. And that is to Mandela just unacceptable at a personal level. He snapped with de Klerk. He doesn't like de Klerk, it's quite clear. He'll control it because he's a very controlled individual, and that's part of the prison legacy.
NARRATOR: Then in 1993, the white right struck a blow that threatened all-out racial war. They assassinated Chris Hani, a hugely popular ANC leader.
TOKYO SEXWALE, ANC Leader: There was his skull shattered. The Chris Hani episode was a near breaking point for everything that we had put together.
[at murder scene] But Chris died for peace! How shall we convince people about peace?
NARRATOR: People were in no mood for talk of peace. Mandela was hundreds of miles away at his house in the Transkei.
RICK STENGEL: The phone rang. I saw him talking on the phone - "Uh-huh. Yes." And his face went from that pleasant, pleased face to this stony, cold mask. There was no moment of grieving at all. That single moment was all of the political machinery and calculations that were going on in his head. What would this do for the nation? What would this do for the peace? What would this do for the negotiations?
NARRATOR: Mandela flew immediately to Johannesburg. He had calculated that there was only one way to stop a bloodbath, to give his people proof that peace would lead them to freedom.
TOKYO SEXWALE: He used that moment very, very cleverly to say to the enemy - de Klerk and them - "Now or never. You give us a date for the elections on the death of Chris. There must be something."
NELSON MANDELA: [SABC TV] This is a watershed moment for all of us. Our decisions and actions will determine whether we use our pain, our grief and our outrage to move forward to what is the only lasting solution for our country, an elected government of the people.
NARRATOR: The election took place on the one-year anniversary of Hani's death. Mandela arrived for his presidential inauguration after a landslide victory. De Klerk would be his deputy president in a government of national unity.
GEORGE BIZOS: So here I was, watching the ceremony, and there were all these ambiguities in my own mind. The head of the army, the head of the police, the very man that persecuted Winnie in Brandfort, General van der Merwe, was next to the president, and Winnie nearby.
JESSIE DUARTE: My heart went out to Winnie on that day. She was at the inauguration, and she was away from the central party. You imagine that this person must have waited her whole life for this moment, and it wasn't there for her. We discussed how we could possibly arrange at least that Mrs. Mandela be part of the main party, but he wouldn't have it. It was his decision.
NELSON MANDELA: I, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, do hereby swear to be faithful to the Republic of South Africa and to devote myself to the well-being of the republic and all its people.
OFFICIAL: Will you please raise your right hand and say "So help me God."
NELSON MANDELA: So help me God.
NARRATOR: One great challenge remained. Mandela now led a racially mixed coalition government, but could he create a common nationhood among a people still deeply divided between black and white?
F.W. De KLERK: President Mandela was not a hands-on president at any time. Right from the beginning, he did not interfere in the day-to-day discussions and decisions which were taken. He acted more the role of a ceremonial president, a nation builder, trying to be a unifying factor.
NARRATOR: One of his first acts was to invite Mrs. P.W. Botha and the widows of the other old apartheid leaders to lunch.
AMINA CACHALIA: He called me to his house, and he said, "We must get these women together with some of our women." And I said, "What are we going to say to them?"
RICA HODGSON: My reaction was also a bit of horror, but I thought, "Well, it's reconciliation." I mean, you know, this is it.
NELSON MANDELA: There's a lady here who was the first to encourage me in my new position. And that is Mrs. Dietrichs.
Mrs. DIETRICHS: [subtitles] We are so grateful to be together like this. We are all one.
NELSON MANDELA: [subtitles] Thank you. Thank you.
FRENE GINWALA: It's not theater. It's not symbolic. It is this view that people have got to see this new South Africa as something in which they have a place, that we don't allow whatever gains we've got to be washed away.
NARRATOR: Mandela was deliberately constructing himself as the embodiment of an ideal he wanted all South Africans to follow.
NELSON MANDELA: This is a practical way of forgetting the past and rebuilding our country.
NEVILLE ALEXANDER: It's a nation-building strategy, a strategy of reconciliation and so on. And he was prepared to take- to go the whole hog, even when others would have felt awkward and embarrassed even.
ADELAIDE TAMBO: Some of the things bamboozle you. You say to yourself, "Is it really happening? Is this Mrs. P.W. Botha sitting to next to my president, talking as if things have always been normal?" But he was there, the elegant Thembu gentleman, polite, humble and down to earth.
Chief NDABA MTIRARA: [through interpreter] We, as Thembus, have no grudge against wrongdoers. If we cross each other's road today, tomorrow that's long past and forgotten. That is a good symbol of a good leader because if you are a leader, all people are your subjects. You have to listen to them. You have to pay homage to them when the occasion arises.
NARRATOR: An occasion- the Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg. The passions stirred by rugby had always sharpened the divisions between the two nations, black and white.
MORNE DU PLESSIS, National Rugby Team Manager: How was rugby perceived by black people? Maybe a game played by the white oppressors, a game that was used by the governing party and the government of the time as highlighting how good we were as a country.
I was walking out of the change room, walking into this bright, harsh sunlight- 70,000 South African rugby fans chanting. I don't think I'll ever experience a moment like that again.
NARRATOR: Mandela suddenly appeared in the captain's jersey, stunning the white crowd, standing by his team.
TOKYO SEXWALE: "Nelson! Nelson!" We stood there, and we didn't know what to say. The liberation struggle of our people was not about liberating blacks from bondage, but moreso it was about liberating white people from fear. And there it was, fear melting away. "Nelson! Nelson!"
NARRATOR: New Zealand, the favorites, were expected to run away with the game. But in the dying minutes, with the game tied, South Africa made their move. The whole country went wild. He said later it was the happiest day of his life.
Archbishop DESMOND TUTU: That was a defining moment in the life of our country. It's not anything that you can contrive. Unbelievable that when we won, people could be dancing in Soweto.
It had the effect of just turning 'round, I think, our country. It said it is actually possible for us to become one nation. The icon of reconciliation and forgiveness, of holding together a country that everybody kept predicting- "Oh, it didn't happen at the elections? It didn't go up in flames at the elections? Give them six months and this country will be down the tubes."
It's four years later. And I do believe that without him it would not have been possible to hold together those disparate parts that were flying all over the place. And that is, I think, his greatest legacy.
NARRATOR: Mandela had promised he would leave office after one term. Back in the hills of Transkei, he has built a retirement home, an exact replica of the house he lived in at Victor Verster prison.
And now he has someone to share it with. He met the widow of the late president of Mozambique, Graca Machel, at a party.
JESSIE DUARTE: You could see that Madiba was absolutely taken by Graca. He said to me that she's got such a beautiful smile. [laughs] And I thought, "Oh, well," you know, "my boss is in love."
NARRATOR: They were married on his 80th birthday.
Chief NDABA MTIRARA: [through interpreter] While he is here, he is no longer regarded as a state president, but as a member of the royal family. It's compulsory that he partakes in some form of advising the chiefs.
NARRATOR: The young man who ran away from the responsibilities of his birth is now expected home.
Chief NDABA MTIRARA: [through interpreter] He has a role to play.
A coproduction of
Story Street Productions
for Unapix Entertainment, Inc.
in association with
PBS, ITEL, NHK and SABC
Copyright » 1999 Unapix Entertainment, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Copyright » 1999 WGBH Educational
The Long Walk Of NELSON MANDELA
INTERVIEWER & WRITER
Joanna Maciver Millan
LOCATION SCOUT (Transkei)
Metropolitan Security Services
Anita le Roux
Andre van Heerden
FINAL MIX ENGINEER
MUSIC STUDIO ENGINEERS
Bailey's African History Archives
Jon Hrusa/The Sunday Times
FILM ARCHIVE COURTESY OF
South African National
Film & Television Archives
"Come Back Africa"
Produced and Directed by Lionel Rogosin
"Voices from Robben Island" -
The Schadeberg Movie Company
THE PRODUCERS WISH TO THANK
William Cullen Library S.A.
Department of Correctional Services S.A.
Johannesburg Public Library
National Archives S.A.
The Office of the State
President of South Africa
The Old Johannesburg Fort
Robben Island Museum
Nelson Mandela's letters quoted from
"Higher than Hope" by Professor Fatima Meer,
courtesy of the author.
FOR UNAPIX ENTERTAINMENT
EXECUTIVE IN CHARGE
FOR FILMS 2 PEOPLE
Indra de Lanerolle
FOR STORY STREET
POST PRODUCTION PRODUCER
Michael A. Dawson
Julie A. Parker
LoConte Goldman Design
The Caption Center
SENIOR STAFF ASSOCIATE
Lee Ann Donner
Karen Carroll Bennett
SENIOR EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
A production of
Story Street Productions
Films 2 People
Unapix Entertainment, Inc.
in association with
PBS, ITEL, NHK and SABC
© 1999 Unapix Entertainment, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
© 1999 WGBH Educational Foundation
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