It was a balmy afternoon on 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela’s day of liberation. I rolled down the back window and stretched out an arm to have my hand slapped again and again by exuberant crowds lining the motorway.
We were in a slow-moving traffic jam from Nelson Mandela’s prison in Paarl to the centre of Cape Town about 30 miles away. The hundreds of thousands who had come out to get a glimpse of the country’s most famous prisoner (now an ex-prisoner) seemed unaware that their hero was not in the car. His silver BMW had diverted onto a back route.
It took Mandela’s security people half an hour to get him out his car, being rocked by well-wishers, and into the old Cape Town City Hall. From the building’s balcony he delivered a fluent and rousing speech – his first in public since, three decades before, he had told a court that “if necessary I am willing to die” for his country’s freedom and his people’s rights.
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