On 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela walked out of Victor Verster Prison in Cape Town after 27 years of incarceration.
For the first time, an entire generation of South Africans could finally put a face to the name that had become synonymous with the struggle – the apartheid government had banned the publication of his image during his imprisonment.
Today the image of Mandela, recognised by millions all over the world, symbolises more than just a struggle. Thanks to the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, his image has come to represent humility, wisdom, forgiveness and reconciliation. This legacy encapsulates what Madiba means to all generations of South Africans.
And now, exactly 24 years to the day, the South African Post Office has, in conjunction with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, launched a philatelic souvenir folder – containing the image of Madiba – to commemorate his life and legacy.
While this is not the first stamp issue featuring Madiba, this one is of great significance because it is the first since he passed away on 5 December 2013.
The folder contains a high-quality miniature sheet depicting Madiba and a brief summary of his life history. The sheet is printed in silver, to reflect the richness of Mandela’s legacy and his stature.
Senior Manager of Philately at the South African Post Office Johan van Wyk, speaking at the launch at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, said the Post Office was especially proud of this contribution to the history of Mandela.
“As far back as a year ago we were already working on a design. That was premised on the fact that as much as we did not want him to die, we were aware of his mortality. So this design was coming from the perspective of a country in mourning – the focus was on grief,” he said.
“But in December, when he died, the mood in the country was that of a nation wanting to celebrate his life and legacy – yes, we were sorry for his passing, but we wanted to focus on his contribution. And in one weekend, the design changed completely.”
He said the Post Office met with the Foundation’s CEO, Sello Hatang, on 12 December. From there the Foundation sent the Post Office the text and image and work began on the stamp.
“We are very proud of our efforts. We see our stamps as the smallest ambassadors for the country, but this one means more than that. It represents our contribution to his life and legacy, and through us issuing that stamp, we became a part of history,” he said.
Getty Simelane, a director at the South African Post Office, said the Post Office was proud that the Foundation had allowed the company to celebrate and commemorate the achievements and stature of Madiba.
“With this act, the Foundation has made it possible for many people the world over to share in memories of Madiba,” she said. “We believe that Madiba, the most passionate democrat the world has ever seen, would approve.”
Chairman of the Nelson Mandela Foundation Professor Njabulo Ndebele said the launch represented the continuation of the Foundation’s mandate to keep Mr Mandela's memory and legacy alive.
“We are committed to working with others to honour Madiba’s legacy by working hard to keep his memory alive,” he said.
Each souvenir folder costs R50 and is available at all post offices, as well as online at www.virtualpostoffice.co.za.
The South African Post Office has said a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the stamps will be donated to the Foundation.