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It was not De Klerk's kindness that Mandela was released from prison - Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that it was not the kindness of FW de Klerk that led to the release of the late former President Nelson Mandela from prison, but the pressure the apartheid government faced.

Ramaphosa was speaking at the 30th anniversary of the release of Mandela from Victor Verster prison after spending 27 years in prison.

Addressing a crowd gathered at the City Hall in Cape Town where Mandela made his first speech following his release, Ramaphosa said the announcement by De Klerk 30 years ago was not out of his kindness.

He said that it came after the apartheid regime had faced immense pressure from within the country and internationally.

“It was not out of the kindness of FW de Klerk’s heart, it was not because he felt sorry for Nelson Mandela, it was not because he was a kind-hearted man, it was because of the pressure and the struggles that the people of our country waged to enable Nelson Mandela to be released. It was your victory,” Ramaphosa said.

It was on this day in 1990 when Mandela walked out of prison a free man.

His release changed the trajectory of the country and it finally dawned on South Africans that apartheid had indeed ended.

De Klerk addressed the nation in a much anticipated televised speech at the Hendrik Verwoed building in Cape Town where he announced that Mandela would be released from prison.

Millions, who had access to television sets, were glued to their screens when De Klerk uttered his first words: “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to have disrupted your Saturday afternoon”.

In the 13-minute address which was in Afrikaans and then English, De Klerk went on to announce the decision that would pave way for a new South Africa.

“… I am now in a position to announce that Mr Nelson Mandela would be released at the Victor Verster prison on Sunday, the 11th of February at about 3pm,” De Klerk announced.

This announcement, Ramaphosa has said, should not be attributed to the good heart of De Klerk, but South Africans who had pressured the apartheid government into making it.

He said that the late stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela also played a key role and had made sure that Mandela’s name was not forgotten during his 27 years’ imprisonment.

“Throughout those 27 years when he was a prisoner of a heartless regime, it was mothers and fathers of this country who kept his name and memory alive.

“Mam’ Winnie Mandela kept Nelson Mandela’s name alive everyday. She and many others kept the fires of resistance burning in the breasts of the people of this country,” Ramaphosa said.