Nineteen years after Nelson Mandela began writing about his years as President of South Africa, his new book, Dare Not Linger, The Presidential Years, was launched in Johannesburg on 17 October.
Former members of his presidential staff, ex-freedom fighters, members of Parliament and supporters of the anti-apartheid movement gathered together at Mandela’s post-presidential office in Houghton with people from all walks of life to celebrate.
Acclaimed South African writer Mandla Langa worked with Mandela’s original manuscript, which he never finished, to complete the book that he had intended as a sequel to his international best-seller, Long Walk to Freedom.
Langa and Barbara Masekela, a former aide to President Mandela, were in conversation with broadcaster Iman Rappetti before a packed audience in the auditorium of the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, the room in which Mandela himself often attended events.
Langa urged people to read the book, which he said, “Will help us to remember ourselves as South Africans when we held the moral high ground, when we walked with our heads held high.”
Masekela said she found Dare Not Linger “riveting” and that it reminded her of Mandela’s “fervour for South Africa, for the people of South Africa”. His presidency, she said, was at a time of war throughout the world, such as in Rwanda “He didn’t want war in South Africa,” Masekela said. “He simply did not want to see South African people at war with each other.”
The title of the new book comes from one of the last lines in Long Walk to Freedom and serves as a warning to future leaders of South Africa about how much work is still to be done to equalise a country that had been torn apart by colonialism and apartheid:
“I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
Some months after Mandela’s passing on 5 December 2013, his widow, Graca Machel, approached the Nelson Mandela Foundation with a proposal to have the manuscript completed and published. Joel Netshitenzhe and Tony Trew, who worked in his presidency, set about conducting extensive research and new interviews with former members of Mandela’s staff.
Langa then drew together their work with Mandela’s own writing and produced Dare Not Linger. The team worked closely with publishers Blackwell & Ruth, which had published a range of books by and about Nelson Mandela.
Quoting Machel’s prologue to the book, Rappetti said: “The demands the world placed on him, distractions of many kinds and his advancing years complicated the project. He lost momentum and eventually the manuscript lay dormant. Through the last years of his life he talked about it often – worried about work started but not finished.”
Nelson Mandela Foundation Chief Executive Sello Hatang said it had taken years of hard work to bring this project to fruition. He thanked Netshitenzhe, Trew and Langa. He said that Mandela wanted the story of his presidency to be told. “He wanted to inspire readers to keep working for the country of our dreams.”
Speaking earlier, Verne Harris, Director: Archive and Dialogue at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said the book would “fundamentally shift perceptions some have of Madiba”. Referring to Mandela by his clan name, which is widely used in South Africa to refer to him with affection, he added: “What emerges is ‘Madiba the chief executive’ – a hands-on leader who, in relation to aspects of his government such as the security establishment, was a bit of a micromanager. Another thing that emerges quite strongly is that he was a politician’s politician; he knew how to get the best out of people.”
Dare Not Linger is available now, and will be published in a number of editions and languages over the coming months.