Media statement: Nelson Mandela Foundation commemorates the 28th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from Victor Verster Prison

Media statement: The Nelson Mandela Foundation commemorates the 28th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from Victor Verster Prison.

From: Nelson Mandela Foundation

Date: 11 February 2018


As on the day he was taken into custody, Nelson Mandela’s release on 11 February 1990 was also on a Sunday and again on a country road. But when he walked into freedom at 4.22pm there was nothing lonely or quiet about that moment. Hundreds of cheering people witnessed the occasion and scores more lined his route into Cape Town. South Africa would never be the same again – Nelson Mandela was back among us.

Prison diary noting Nelson Mandela's last days in Victor Verster Prison and his release on 11 February 1990. (Image: NMF)

His belongings – mainly books and papers – were packed up in 22 cardboard boxes and transported in a convoy of hastily borrowed sedan cars. Included among them was a body board, mistakenly noted as a "surfboard", he used when using the swimming pool next to the house, and an exercise bicycle for this fitness fanatic.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation he would set up nine years later promotes his legacy through archival work, research and dialogue. One of the many discoveries we have made is that his own autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, contains several errors of fact, including that in the chaos of his release he was not taken to the home of his lawyer, Dullah Omar, but to the home of activist Saleem Mowzer. This was corrected in the sequel Dare Not Linger, published in 2017.

Mandela’s first speech in almost three decades signalled the path of servant leadership, peace and reconciliation he was to make the hallmark of the remaining years of his life. As it turned out he was free for just 22 years, nine months and 24 days before he passed away at his home in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013.

Shortly after his release from prison he led talks between his African National Congress and the ruling National Party. These historic discussions culminated in the Groote Schuur Minute in May 1990, the Pretoria Minute in August 1990 and the DF Malan Accord in February 1991 and led, in December 1991, to full-blown negotiations to end white minority rule in South Africa.

While we commemorate 2018 as the centenary of the birth of this great South African on 18 July 1918, he has left us with rich layers of milestones in his remarkable life.


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Lunga Nene

Inventory of Nelson Mandela's belongings on his release from 27 years' incarceration. (Image: NMF)