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Nelson Mandela: His Life In His Words And The Words Of Others


And as we remember, Nelson Mandela, we turn now to the history that shaped the former South African president. In 2004, we broadcast a series of documentaries about Mandela. We're going to hear the first installment from that series, titled "Mandela: An Audio History" by producers Joe Richman and Sue Johnson of Radio Diaries. It's told through the voices of Mandela, those who fought alongside him, and those who fought against him. Nelson Mandela was one of thousands of black South Africans who flocked to Johannesburg in the 1940s in search of work. By 1948, he was a young lawyer and activist, when a new political party came into power with a new idea: the separation of whites and blacks. It was the birth of apartheid.

NELSON MANDELA: I remember when I arrived in Johannesburg in the early '40s. The fear, you know, of the power of the white man inhibited us a great deal, and the government was becoming very tough.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: ...the (unintelligible) government of Pretoria, while South Africa's newly elected prime minister, Dr. Milan, was sworn in at the beginning of a new chapter of South Africa's history.

MANDELA: I remember I came out of Park Station that morning and bought a newspaper, and learned that the National Party had won. And comrade, Oliver Campbell, said, well, I like this, because we now know that we have an enemy in power. And I think that we're going to have a better opportunity of mobilizing our people. So, when they came into power, it became clear that we were going to be put under a very severe test.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: In these circumstances, the government has decided on the following measures: a prohibition on meetings has been...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: And immediately after 1948, the apartheid government announced that it was introducing a new series of laws.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: The Group Areas Act, there was an Immorality Act, said that you couldn't have sexual relations across the color line, race stratification, which laid down, for all time, your color and your category - white, colored, Indian or black.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: The colored man must always carry these passes.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Photographs are taken at the offices of the Department of Native Affairs. Daily, a large number turns up for reference books. Each book contains the photograph of the owner, his name, race and particulars of employment.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: They used a screwed method of putting a pencil through your hair. If the pencil sticks, then you are black or African. If it falls off, you've got a chance of being classified colored.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Naturally, the officials who are employed here must have a thorough knowledge of Bantu customs and languages.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: Each time you left your home, you had to make sure that you have a little book in your pocket. And if you didn't have that piece of paper, some ignorant, stupid youngster in the police force could stop you and demand that you identify yourself. If you couldn't, they locked you up. The feeling among the vast majority of people is that the system cannot continue and must do something about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #8: Several hundred natives gathered peaceably to protest the (unintelligible) laws.

Police, mounted on tanks opened fire. 69 natives were killed, 176 wounded. Some of the dead were children, women, and elderly men.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #9: Here were people, just marching (unintelligible) a passbook, and police open fire. For the first time, it showed the world how brutal the apartheid system could be.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #10: The prime minister assured the country that law and order would be maintained, if necessary the defense force would be called in.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #11: The ANC had been declared illegal during the state of emergency, so Oliver Tambo sent out of the country. And some of the other leaders followed. Mandela, it was decided, should stay in the country. And he carried on his work underground.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #12: 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 arranged for me to meet him at his hideout. He is still underground. This is Mandela's first television interview. I asked him what is was that the African really wanted.

MANDELA: The Africans require the franchise on the basis of one man, one vote. They want political independence.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #12: Now if Dr. Devork's(ph) government doesn't give you the kind of concessions that you want sometime soon, is there any likelihood of violence?

MANDELA: There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and non-violence against the government (unintelligible) is only (unintelligible) on an unarmed and defenseless people. And I think the time has come...

I had made a statement where I called for armed struggle. Naturally there was a great deal of resistance, but I believed that the government had left us with no other alternative.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #13: At the end of 1961 the bombing campaign started. Its targets? Power supplies, post offices, telephone booths and (unintelligible) offices - objects, not people. The aim was to shock the government into negotiating.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #14: We were branded terrorists by the whole Western world. And we didn't have nothing to lose (unintelligible). Well, as one man said, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #15: We used to sing a song. One stick, two stick, three sticks of dynamite. We'll take the country the Castro way. Now, remember Castro's campaign was a very short campaign. Within the space of two years they had overrun Cuba. So here were, the (unintelligible), all singing this song, as if to say, in six months' time we'd be free. Six months' time we were languishing in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Mandela, he had addressed a meeting in (unintelligible). He was coming back and the police stopped him. And they asked him what was his name, and he said David. And they said you're under arrest, Mr. Mandela.

BLOCK: You've been listening to "Mandela: An Audio History" produced by Radio Diaries. We heard the voices of Nelson Mandela, Dullah Omar, Helen Suzman, Ahmed Kathrada, Nthato Motlana, Lungi Sisulu, Mac Maharaj, and Amina Cachalia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.