Media release: Nelson Mandela Foundation mourns the passing of Eddie Daniels
Date: 30 November 2017
From: Nelson Mandela Foundation
We at the Nelson Mandela Foundation have learned with great sadness about the death of Eddie Daniels. Born in District Six, he was an activist all his adult life and spent 15 years in prison for his contribution to South Africa’s liberation struggle. On behalf of our Chairman, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, our Board of Trustees and staff, we send our deepest condolences to his family, friends and comrades.
Uncle Eddie, as Foundation staffers called him, became a good friend of Nelson Mandela’s during his incarceration in Robben Island’s B Section. They remained close until Madiba passed away four years ago. Despite the fact that Uncle Eddie had been from the Liberal Party and the African Resistance Movement while Madiba was from the ANC, they formed an unbreakable bond in prison and regarded each other as comrades as well as friends.
Speaking three years after his release from prison, Madiba said: “I liked Daniels very much. He was one of my greatest friends in prison. We got on very well. I found him honest, very humble and very helpful indeed.”
After his release from prison, Uncle Eddie hatched a plan to help Madiba escape by helicopter. The escape was planned for New Year’s morning 1981, but never came to fruition.
Madiba referred to Uncle Eddie as “a very honest chap” and illustrated this with an anecdote about an end-of-year draughts final competition in prison. Uncle Eddie was in Madiba’s team and was playing a match against another man. “He could make a move and finish the game. So I nudged him, you know, secretly, and Daniels says, ‘No, Madiba, I don’t want to be helped.’ And he said so in the hearing of the chap, his opponent, and he was quite embarrassed. ‘No, no, no Madiba, I don’t want to be helped.’ He regarded that as improper, you see, so honest he was.”
In his autobiography, There & Back: Robben Island 1964 – 1979, Uncle Eddie related among many other reminiscences how Madiba had taught him the words to the WE Henley poem, Invictus. Madiba wrote in his foreword to that book: “We recall his loyalty and courage; his sense of humour, and justice as well as total commitment to the struggle of the prisoners for the eradication of injustice and the betterment of their conditions.”
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