Posted: 2/11/2010


       It was 20 years to the day when Nelson Mandela walked out of Victor Vorster prison after 27 years of incarceration, to become a free man and future President of the Rainbow Nation. He was 71 years old.

       Less than 3 years later, while he was leader of the ANC, I was a guest in South Africa and visited many townships. One was with a school with burned car tyres outside. The headmistress told me how not long ago some locals had been 'necklaced' - nothing to do with expensive de Beers diamonds. It was summary execution! They had tyres put round their necks, were doused with petrol, and set alight.

       I had been provided with a chauffer and asked him why the hell they had put up with such inequal treatment for so long? "We were divided and lived in townships and had sticks and stones and petrol bombs. The police had automatic weapons, armoured cars, helicopters and the pass laws. It was no contest."   Prime Minister H. W. de Klark  had announced that Mandela would be freed and he kept his word. He was the 7th and last Prime Minister in an apartheid-era South Africa. Both were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony at Oslo City Hall in the capital of Norway in 1993. I have been there many times, and again last summer, and nearby is a new Peace Museum.

      All other Nobel Prizes, literature, science , mathematics etc. are held in Stockholm City Hall, since Alfred Nobel was a Swede who had invented dynamite, made enormous amounts of money, and ploughed it back into these prizes, and in particular the cause of peace.  South Africa has tried it's best to solve the many problems of a vaste country with impatient citizens. The latest in charge is a Zulu, Jacob Zuma . At his inauguration on May 20th last year, de Klark hoped that he would  "confound the prophets of doom".  

      While in prison, in solitary confinement on Robben Island and elsewhere, Mandela had a poem that he often, a short Victorian poem called Invictus, the title of the recently released movie. It was written by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) and means UNCONQUERED.

         "Out of the night that covers me,  Black as the pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever gods may be, For my unconquerable soul.

         In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance, My head is bloody, but unbowed.

        Beyond this place of wrath and tears, Looms but Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years, Finds and shall find me unafraid.

       It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul".