25 years ago on this day (11 February 1990) Nelson Mandela took his first steps to freedom.
After an effective 27 years of imprisonment, the symbol of South Africa’s fight for liberation, Nelson Mandela, was released.
Mandela spent nearly 20 years of his life on Robben Island until 1982 when he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison.
He was released in 1990 but not many might know he could have walked free five years earlier. The reason he didn’t, was that the offer made to him by then State President PW Botha was conditional and stipulated that Mandela must basically retract from politics and exile to the then Transkei (Eastern Cape).
Watch below to hear what February 11, 1990 meant to South Africans.
Wednesday 11 February 2015 15:54
On 10 February 1990, President FW De Klerk had called a press conference at then Hendrik Verwoed House, now known as 120 Plein Street, across from Parliament.
He told the media: “In pursuance of the opening address to Parliament, I am now in a position to announce that Mr Nelson Mandela will be released at the Victor Verster Prison on Sunday February 11, 1990 at about three pm. I met with Mandela in Cape Town together with ministers Gerrit Viljoen and Kobie Coetsee. During the meeting Mandela was informed of the government’s decision regarding his release.”
The announcement came eight days after De Klerk announced the unbanning of political parties, including Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC).
Mandela had been kept at a farm house at the back of the Victor Verster Prison, now known as Groot Drakenstein Correctional Centre.
Upon his release, Mandela was driven by car toward the main prison gate. 15 yards before the access gate, he got out and started to walk.
Relive the turning point in South African history with Mandela’s release below.