Item 1598 - Nelson Mandela’s first press conference

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ZA COM MR-S-1598


Nelson Mandela’s first press conference


  • 1990-02-12 (Creation)

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Transcription of Nelson Mandela's first press conference

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  • English

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MANDELA: Thank you. Yes, this is alright. [SEEMINGLY SPEAKING TO SOMEONE ELSE]. Good morning
MURPHY MOROBE: I will open the press conference just now
But I think that’s a representative question, maybe we’ll start with it when I open.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have with us here our leader, Comrade Nelson Mandela who is joining us here today. He gave a talk yesterday at the Parade which I hope most of you have got copies of the text. If not, we can arrange that you all get the actual copy of the text. Now, of course it is to be expected that we’ll have questions even around aspects that were raised in the speech itself and other matters related thereto. Now of course we have with us as well, next to him, Comrade Winnie Mandela who finally is going to be living in a different sort of way with her husband, with her at home. And Comrade Walter Sisulu, you’ve already met. He’s joining us at the press conference and Comrade Albertina Sisulu who’ll be with us as well. Now, I’m going to open the press conference, I’ll try to be representative of all the sides, if there are any sides at this conference but I’ll start from the left-hand side – not that because I’m a leftist or anything
but I’ll start from the left and move towards the right. So if I miss you, I’ll probably come back to you on the left. Can we start with the first question at the centre?
MR MANDELA, KEVIN DUNN OF ITN OF LONDON: Can you tell us how you feel on your first morning as a free man?
MANDELA: Before I respond to that question, I think it proper to apologise for the failure of the press conference yesterday. Our marshals did exceptionally good work but the crowd was too big and it became impossible for us to keep to our programmes and we very much regret that we could not fulfill that engagement. Having said that, I want to assure you that I’m absolutely excited to be out. I’m also excited to have the opportunity of addressing you, because throughout these difficult years in prison, the press, both locally and foreign, have been a brick to us. I think it was originally the intention of the government that we should be forgotten and that their leaders, leaders of the homelands, bantustans and all those who work within government structures, should be built up and that we should be forgotten. It was the press that kept the memory of those who had been imprisoned for offences which they committed in the course of their political activities – it was the press that never forgot us. And we are, therefore, indebted to you and I’m happy to be with you this morning.
JOHN MATISONN: Mr. Mandela, John Matisonn from National Public Radio. In the light of your reference in your speech yesterday, to the fact that leaders must be elected by the national conference of the ANC, do you envisage for yourself a different kind of role, before the next national conference and could you tell us more about what sort of role you envisage yourself playing in the coming months?
MANDELA: No person has the right in our organisation to determine what his role is in the course of the struggle. We are loyal and disciplined members of the organisation. It is the organisation that will determine what role we should play. It is my intention to go to Lusaka at the earliest possible convenience – they will tell me what role I should play.
YES, BILL SCHILLER OF THE TORONTO STAR: Mr. Mandela could you tell us why, in your understanding, that the state has decided to release you back to your people at this point in time and history?
MANDELA: Well, I think it’s a normal thing for the government to decide at some stage to release a prisoner. They had already released Comrade Walter and others and my release was a natural development of events.
ANTHONY JOHNSON, CAPE TIMES: When President De Klerk announced your release on Saturday afternoon, he said that after two meetings with you he had come to the conclusion that you were committed to peace. Last night you committed yourself to the intensification of the armed struggle, would you care to comment?
MANDELA: There is no conflict between those two statements. I have committed myself to the promotion of peace in the country but I have done so as part and parcel of the decisions and campaigns which have been taken and launched by the ANC. There’s no conflict whatsoever. There is not a single political organisation in this country, inside and outside Parliament, which can ever compare with the ANC in its total commitment to peace. And we, the armed struggle, is merely defensive; it’s a defensive act against the violence of apartheid, but we remain committed to peace and if the government gives us the opportunity, if they normalise the situation, we are ready to make a positive contribution towards the peaceful settlement of the problems of this country.
MOROBE: I’ll have to – yes, yes.
YES, JOHN CARLIN, OF THE INDEPENDENT OF LONDON: Mr Mandela, the government’s new battle cry seems to be protection for minority rights and a new negotiated constitution, do you detect a shift here away maybe to group rights and do you see any room for accommodation here between the ANC and the government?
MANDELA: The ANC is very much concerned to address the question of the concern of whites, over the demand of one person one vote. And they insist on structural guarantees, that is the whites to ensure that the realisation of this demand does not result in the domination of whites by blacks. We understand those fears and the ANC is concerned to address that problem and to find a solution which will suit both the blacks and the whites in this country.
MR MANDELA, DAVID BERESFORD OF THE GUARDIAN: Could you tell us something about the meeting that you had with a group of South African cabinet ministers. When did they start, who initiated them, which cabinet ministers did you meet and can you tell us something about the content of the discussions?
MANDELA: Well, that is a very good question because there has been a lot of misunderstanding about it. I have been having discussions with the government for the last three years on two separate, but related questions. The first one, in which I have been negotiating with the government, was the release of my colleagues: Mr. Sisulu and others. As far as that is concerned, I have been negotiating. But the second issue has been one of a meeting between the ANC and the government. And there I have been acting purely as a facilitator to bring these two major political organisations, bodies to the negotiating table. In the course of my attempt to secure results on these two, I have met a number of cabinet ministers. The first, of course, was Mr. Kobie Coetsee, I have had countless meetings with him. The second has been Dr. Gerrit Viljoen, whom I have met now for about four times since he took over this new portfolio. As you know, I have met State President PW Botha. That meeting has been misunderstood: there is a suggestion that this was a propaganda ploy on the part of a president who was retiring. It’s not so. That meeting was requested by me and the former State President merely responded to my request to see him. Secondly, it has been suggested that this was an attempt on the part of the former State President to do something that would embarrass Mr De Klerk and that is not so. Mr. De Klerk was involved right at the outset in the arrangements for this meeting, he was kept informed and he himself was in line with the fact that this discussion should take place.
DAVID ZUCCHINO FROM THE PHILADELPHIA ENQUIRER: The government has indicated that you are willing to act as a mediator. Do you agree with the use of that terms and is it true?
MANDELA: Well in a sense I have been acting as a mediator because I believe that the first step towards the solution of our problems is a meeting between the ANC and the government. So I have been playing that role, but now that I am released it is for the ANC to determine what role I should play.
MR MANDELA, VIVIAN WALT FROM NEWSDAY IN NEW YORK: Could you give us some insight about the events the day before De Klerk addressed Parliament? It’s our understanding that you were to meet him or at least one of the cabinet ministers; somehow that meeting did not happen. Could you tell us what exactly the circumstances were?
MANDELA: Well, it is correct you see that I was supposed to meet the State President but that meeting did not take place because you people knew about it and you made it impossible for us to meet.
MANDELA: Oh yes, I’m happy to see you
LAURENCE: Mr. Mandela, the bantustans that have been created since you were imprisoned, what is their future from the perspective of the ANC?
MANDELA: Well the ANC has called upon them to join the struggle and I think that is a correct policy. You must remember that some of them, although we disagree with their politics, some of them are quite innocent and they are men, you see, who have served the community in one way or the other. And nothing would please us more than that they should join us.
MOROBE: Can I ask on the left to be a bit more patient? I indicated I’ll come back to you guys that side
ROBERT VON LUCIUS ALlGEMEINE ZEITUNG: What do you plan to enhance black unity in the direction of PAC and in the direction of Inkatha, specifically within Pietermaritzburg?
MANDELA: No single person can undertake such an enormous task. It is the duty of the political organisations, in particular the ANC, to determine in what way can we increase the momentum of unity among black organisations – and they’ll give me instructions.
MANDELA: Everything that we set out to achieve through sanctions is still the same, nothing has changed. You must remember that the demand in this country is for a non-racial society, we are very far from that. And it is too early for anybody to expect us to call for the lifting of sanctions but having said that, I would like to add that there is nothing that worries us as the ANC than the fact that we should be involved in politics of confrontation. And we will seize the earliest opportunity of settling our problems through peaceful means.
QUESTION: My second part of the question
MANDELA: Just repeat it please
QUESTION: Would you take up Mrs. Thatcher’s invitation? [REST OF THE QUESTION IS INAUDIBLE]
MANDELA: Well, an invitation from a British Prime Minister is something very important. And we can’t treat it very lightly but on this question, I will have to be advised by the ANC.
MANDELA: Well, I have lost a great deal over these 27 years and my wife has been under all sorts of pressures and it is not a nice feeling for a man to see his family struggling without security, without the dignity of the head of the family around. But despite the hard times that we have had in prison, we have also had the opportunity to think about problems. And its an opportunity which is also very rewarding in that regard and you learn to get used to your circumstances. And in prison there have been men, you know who are very good in the sense that they understand our point of view and they do everything to try and make you as happy as possible. And that has wiped out any bitterness which a man could have.
DAVID OTTAWAY FROM THE WASHINGTON POST: Could you tell us the basis of your talks so far? How close do you feel you all are to having a meeting with the government and the ANC?
MANDELA: Well, I am very confident that that day is not very far. One thing I have been able to assess is that Mr. De Klerk is a man of integrity, and as I said yesterday, he seems to be fully aware of the danger to a public figure of making undertakings which he fails to honour and I think that is a very promising sign. In my discussions with him he has been very flexible and, but as an organisation of course, we are concerned not so much with the personal virtues of an individual. Our policy and strategies are determined by the harsh reality of the fact that the National Party has got a policy which is not so progressive and that is what determines our attitude. But I am confident that if Mr. De Klerk is able to carry the National Party with him in the new line that he has taken that he himself wants to normalise the situation as soon as possible. And therefore I think that very soon the obstacles to negotiation will be removed and it will be possible for us to sit down and talk.
MOROBE: OK. I’m approaching the right wing, I’ll try to move very fast here. Strini
STRINI MOODLEY: Thank you. Strini Moodley
MANDELA: Oh Strini’s here! How are you?
MOODLEY: I’m fine, how are you?
MOODLEY: Nelson, you know I come from Natal and of big concern in Natal has been Gatsha's insistence that he has a very personal relationship with you. He very recently has been publicising a letter that you allegedly wrote to him – over and over again – and has been using that in his efforts to try and whip up support for himself. What will your public attitude now be towards Gatsha Buthelezi?
MANDELA: That should be a matter of no concern. We have differences with Dr. Buthelezi. Firstly, on the question of violence, the use of violence; secondly on the attitude towards government structures; and thirdly, on questions of sanctions. These are fundamental differences, but nevertheless, he is a figure with a following. It may not be as big, it may not command as much resources as we command, but he has a following and it seems to me correct to try and settle problems in which he is involved, to settle them amicably, and I wrote to him because I didn’t think it was correct that Africans, blacks, should be killing one another, and that that situation we must try and solve.
MIKE WOOLRIDGE, BBC RADIO: You spoke yesterday about the objective of majority rule in this country and also spoke and have spoken again this morning of the need to address the concerns of whites in this country. Do you feel and would you be advising your colleagues to feel, that there should be a period of power sharing before the ultimate objective of majority rule is reached and if so over what sort of period of time?
MANDELA: Well, I don’t think it would be proper for me to go into any specifics here, except just to stress that this is a problem we are fully aware of. And it is one of our most important duties to address this problem. Whites are fellow South Africans and we want them to feel safe and that we appreciate the contribution they have made towards the development of this country.
FARIDA AYARI, RADIO FRANCE: Mr Nelson Mandela, President de Klerk has met already with several African leaders and he is going to meet more African leaders this year. What do you think of the Francophone, African countries who have links with South Africa?
MANDELA: Well, South Africa is a very important country and if there is an internal solution; South Africa will play a major role in promoting developments in various fields which today require immediate attention in the sense that some of the problems are far beyond the resources of the African states around South Africa. And therefore, if an internal settlement is reached, I would urge that the relations between our country and Africa should be improved and I would encourage such meetings.
MOROBE: I’m going to be arbitrary here. I’ll have Subri from the right for the last question here and then I’ll swing over to the left and for the left I’ll start with the SABC
GOVENDER: Now that you have been released, a number of leaders in the West are sending invitations to you fast and furious, I want to know whether you are going to accept the invitations of these people first or the invitations of those countries that have always supported the struggles of the people of this country?
MANDELA: Well, if I had to decide the matter, I probably would feel that those countries you see, who have supported us very strongly, like India, should get first preference. You should remember that India was the very first country at the United Nations to call for action against South Africa because of its racial policies. You will remember the contribution of [Vijaya Lakshmi] very well and that would be my preference. But all these things are in the hands of the ANC. They will plan whatever trips I propose to take as a result of these invitations. But I have no doubt that they will consider India as one of the very first countries, you see, which we should visit.
MOROBE: Here is the next order, Keyter will speak and Mr [KOPPEL SOUNDS LIKE HE’S SAYING COTRILL] and the lady here and yourself
MANDELA: How are you?
KEYTER: Fine and yourself, sir?
KEYTER: You used the word ‘normalising’ quite freely in your address last night and you used the word again just now, and you said that Mr De Klerk also has spoken on normalising. Would you say that your definitions of normalising are the same as your views and Mr De Klerk’s views are the same as far as normalizing is concerned?
MANDELA: Well, I have no doubt that we are talking about the same thing but if he regards the steps that he has taken so far as being sufficient for the normalization of the political situation in the country, then I differ with him. Because the State of Emergency has to be lifted in its entirety and also political prisoners have to be released. And once we have removed these obstacles then, twe will be entitled to say the situation has been normalised.
MANDELA: Oh, yes, how are you?
KOPPEL: You have spoken a couple of times this morning about your sensitivity to the concerns of the White population. Have you modified in any way your views on the redistribution of wealth?
MANDELA: No, my views are identical with those of the ANC. The question of the Nationalisation of the mines and similar sectors of the community is a fundamental policy of the ANC and I believe that the ANC is quite correct in this attitude and that we should support it.
MR NELSON MANDELA, PADDI CLAY FROM CAPITAL RADIO: Do you intend returning to Transkei for a visit or to stay?
MANDELA: My home is in Johannesburg, but I was born in the Transkei and it is proper for me to visit the area of my birth and there are certain rites which I have to perform, and for that reason I will go down. And I also long to see the little stones on which I played as a child; the little rivers where I swam, and I will go down but my home, I’m stationed in Johannesburg.
MOROBE: This side, this side and we have about ten minutes more left
MOROBE: I forgot the lady there, I’m sorry, I’ll come back to you
ARLENE GETZ, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD: You mentioned the lifting of the State of Emergency but before you came out there was talk that you would not come out until this was lifted. Then there was talk that you would disobey the Emergency rules until you were rearrested if you were released into a State of Emergency, could you tell us your views on that and how soon do you think it will be before the State of Emergency is lifted?
MANDELA: There has also been a great deal of misunderstanding on that question. My position was a simple one: that the question of my release can be approached from two angles. The first from the relationship between a jailer and a prisoner. If the government released me under those conditions, then I would have no obligation whatsoever, there would be no continuity between the work I was doing inside prison and the work which the ANC might give me outside. But if they want to release me with my consent, on the the basis that they don’t want to release me into a vacuum, then they must normalise fully. In other words the State of Emergency should be lifted, and political prisoners should be released, that is what, that was my attitude.
GETZ: Yes but how soon will the Emergency be lifted? [REST OF THE QUESTION IS INAUDIBLE]
MANDELA: Well, I cant specify a time it can be lifted, you see, this morning, it can be lifted tomorrow. But we want it lifted before we can regard the situation as being normal.
POSSIBLY SIMON: Mr Mandela do you believe that sanctions played
MOROBE: Sorry, the gentleman behind you
MANDELA: Oh yes. How are you?
MATTERA: I’m OK, Comrade
MANDELA: I thought that you were very tall and stout and
MATTERA: That’s my father. Anyway, Comrade Mandela the strides that the ANC has taken in terms of what has happened in the 1960s and the time of your detention up to now where we see people taking to the streets with or without the permission of the government. How do you feel about that and how does that relate to your release?
MANDELA: Well I think these developments are breathtaking. And they are very inspiring. It is clear now that the masses of the people want to free themselves. They are no longer prepared to wait for the government to free them. That is a clear lesson that emerges from the demonstrations that have taken place.
AMERICAN ACCENT: Do you believe that sanctions played an important role in creating the climate for your release? And what other important forces do you think were at play?
MANDELA: Well, the release is the result of the cumulative effect of many factors. There is the question of the internal mass struggles which have reached a new level of intensity, there is the pressure which comes externally; then of course, even amongst the government, it’s an experience we have had as early as the 1960s. They are not themselves unanimous on some of these things. There have been men who have been insisting that change is absolutely necessary. And I think that their numbers within the government and within the National Party are increasing. And I think all these factors have contributed to my release.
HANS: Mr Mandela you have been talking a lot about the assurances you would like to give whites. Does that mean that you would be prepared to compromise on the system of one person one vote by maybe having separate voters rolls or something like that?
MANDELA: No, I have said that I wouldn’t like to go to any specifics at this time. This is, however, a matter which is regarded as extremely important by the ANC. And we will decide the actual structure of the guarantees, that might be developed at the time when we are addressing this question.
ROBBINS: Can you describe your emotions as you came out of prison, for us, yesterday and also your first impressions of the South Africa you so far been able to see particularly the rally and the violence. [REST OF THE QUESTION IS INAUDIBLE]
MANDELA: I must confesss I am unable to describe my emotions. I was completely overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, it’s something I did not expect and I will be merely rationalizing if I told you that I am able to describe my own feelings. It was breath-taking. That’s all I can say.
ROBBINS: And your first impressions of the South Africa that you found in this very short time that you’ve been free?
MANDELA: Well it’s a totally different South Africa and along the route, I was surprised to see the number of whites who seemed to identify themselves with what is happening in the country today amongst blacks. I was absolutely surprised. And I expected that response from blacks but the number of whites who seemed to feel that a change is absolutely imperative, surprised me.
ROBBINS: And the violence at the rally, did that make you
MOROBE: OK James can we have that gentlemen with the glasses
MANDELA: Oh yes. Well, there are a lot of German heroes here, hey?
KNEMEYER: You said yesterday one sentence about the economy and that was, ‘our economy lies in ruins’. Now if we compare it to other countries in Africa it’s actually not so bad. Could you elaborate on what you mean when you say the ‘economy lies in ruins’?
MANDELA: Well, there are three important aspects we must consider when we are discussing the economy of a country. The question of full employment; the question of productivity and the question of social responsibility. Once we can guarantee that there is progress in these three aspects, then the economy of the country is performing very well. But it is my impression that it is not performing well in the sense of these aspects which I have mentioned. And that is why I say it is in ruins.
FRANCOIS: It seems that the political conditions to finding solutions to South Africa are going further. Do you think the social situation is going to be born because it’s very difficult to negotiate – because a huge amount of youths have been out of school and have no hope in the future. How could you answer that issue and now to speak to that youth?
MANDELA: Well, these problems have to be tackled by the organisation. My colleagues here, Mr Sisulu and the other colleagues who were released with him, have given special attention to this question and I will, of course, join them in the efforts which they are making. The central question, however, is one of trying to prepare the ground for negotiations because once that is done, nobody will have any right to take unilateral action. And we have stronger reasons for appealing to people to be disciplined.
MOROBE: Ladies and gentlemen, we have three more minutes. And I’m going to be very random and arbitrary on this one. I’ll start first with Japan and I’ll come to the BBC and I’ll go back to Hennie Serfontein.
QUESTION: Do you feel like the National Party in 1990 is very different from the National Party in 1961?
MANDELA: Well that is a very important question because that is what is going to determine our policy. Our policy is not going to be determined, you see, by our impressions of the qualities of Mr De Klerk even as a head of state. Our policy and strategies will be determined by the attitude of the National Party. We must assume that the initial steps that he has taken indicate that he is able to carry the National Party with him in the new line. But we still want more evidence. And if he is able, to remove the last obstacles to negotiations then we’ll have a better chance of assessing what the new ideas are in the National Party but for the time being there is not much evidence that the National Party as such has changed its policy.
MR MANDELA, BBC NEWSNIGHT FROM LONDON: In view of the chaos and trouble on the perimeter of last night’s rally and you will know the details now, how would you answer those on the far right who will now tell President de Klerk, ‘we told you so. You cannot control this once Mr Mandela is out’?
MANDELA: They will be totally wrong. Given the circumstances under which that meeting was held, our people controlled the crowds very well. You must remember, we just had one day to organise that meeting. And there would have been trouble no matter who had organised it. The point is that the people are disciplined and the protest marches that have taken place in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Pietermaritzburg and elsewhere, have shown that we can control crowds.
MOROBE: Hennie
HENNIE SERFONTEIN: Mr Mandela, Serfontein, Dutch television
SERFONTEIN: There has been some important policy shifts in the government’s side in the last few years. Tell us to what extent your very in-depth discussions and confrontations with the government in the last few years made a contribution in their change of view on certain things?
MANDELA: Well, it would be most presumptious for me to imagine that I’ve had any effect in influencing government policy. I’ve already told you that my impression is that for some time there have been men inside the National Party who felt that a change was absolutely necessary. And I may have contributed in some small way because for the first time the government had the opportunity of getting our point of view from us, directly. And but otherwise I couldn’t claim that I’ve had any influence on the attitude of the government.
SERFONTEIN: ? the effect?
MANDELA: Well, it is for others to say that. Mr. De Klerk who would be in a better position to say so.
MOROBE: I’m being instructed that I’ve only got two people that should be allowed to speak. It is that lady there and the hand that’s been poking, almost poking my eye out.
DURBAN: I have two questions: The one is if you had your life all over again, would you have changed things so that you wouldn’t be in prison again? I mean that you wouldn’t have had to go to prison. That’s the first one and the second one is that I think most people were very surprised or even shocked to find the ANC being unbanned. We expected you to be released but not the ANC to be unbanned. Why do you think the government took this step? And also it seems that many people feel that the ANC was unprepared for this and has been caught off-guard. Do you agree with that? If you don’t.
MANDELA: No, starting with the last question, the ANC was never caught off-guard. I have been giving regular reports from them and they have been responding to me. They have actually been instructing me what to do, what views to put forward. And they have been getting feedback from me. They were never caught unawares. You must remember that the government and the National Party have been discussing the specific moves that they should take for some time. We have no such opportunity because we are banned but, the ANC, given the circumstances under which they operate, have had a positive response and a well-considered response to the developments that have taken place. The first part of your question: I think in the situation in which we started nobody who has got some conscience politically, would have avoided doing exactly the same things that we did. Its not a question of election of individual election we are forced by circumstances to take this line.
MARTIN: Mr Mandela, on the SABC this morning, there was a report, a special report at 8.15 claiming, amongst other things, that you had been a member and were involved in the Communist Party and was a Communist despite the fact that in your trial you said, ‘I am not a Communist and have never been a member of the Communist Party’. One is accustomed to propaganda from the SABC but I would like you to take this opportunity to tell us what your stand is on Communism.
MANDELA: Well, I have explained, you see, our relationship, our stand, you see, towards the Party. The Party has been working with us since the early Twenties. Their immediate objective is identical with ours and its natural for us to work closely with the Party. What my individual views are. It’s a personal question. What should be known by the public is that we are against racial discrimination and we will work with anybody who is against racial oppression. That has been our attitude towards the Party.
MARTIN: But are you not yourself, you are not a Communist according to your own words?

MANDELA: Well, I have made that perfectly clear. I belong to no other organisations apart from the ANC.

MOROBE: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have come to the end of the press conference now and I would just once again ask us as we move back out of the yard to do so in ways that I think that the relationship with our marshals remains as it is so far. Now



MOROBE: I did make the point earlier on that for any further information, particularly regarding the movement and where we’ll be tomorrow, we’ll try to make sure – at least the pressure of yesterday is off for now in Cape Town that is – and then we inform you accordingly as to where we are going to be doing what. And so for as arrangements, the office in Johannesburg is handling that I understand that some arrangements are being put together to organise the press according to pools of course we are working on the basis of a number of scenarios, some of which have fallen off now. So we I’ll to be in touch with Joburg to see what particular scenarios you are working with. Thank you very much.

MANDELA [SEEMINGLY TALKING TO AN INDIVIDUAL]: Good. Let me shake hands, you know. I’m very happy to have met you, you know?

INDIVIDUAL: Thank you, sir

MANDELA: You have been doing well

WALTER [TO MADIBA]: Serfontein. Serfontein. I think its Hennie Serfontein. I think it’s that chap [INAUDIBLE]


WALTER: he was with



MANDELA: How are you doctor? Oh, I’m very happy to meet you


MANDELA: Well, I’m honoured you see, by your presence here

DOCTOR: Congratulations

MANDELA: Thank you

DOCTOR: My wife


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Description created by Myeka, Zandile on 2021-12-02




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