The Presidential Years

Madiba didn’t want to be released. The night before they met with us they didn’t sleep because they brought Madiba from Victor Verster for a meeting with FW that night. It was already dark. And they told him, this was Friday night, they were going to release him on Sunday and that they would be informing us tomorrow morning. And he said he doesn’t want to be released, 'I need a week’. He refused to be released. Then they persuaded him that everything’s been put in place, world leaders have been told, and this and that, and it has become intolerable for them and it’s going to create a lot of internal problems in government now if they don’t take this step and it has to be taken, they can’t hold it any more et cetera. They had a whole big debate with him and then he agreed.

Then they said, ‘Okay, when South Africa wakes up on Sunday morning they will be told that Mandela has been released and he is in his house in Soweto. The air force will deliver you to your house in the early hours of Sunday morning before sunrise. And when everybody wakes up then they will be told that you are there.’ They were going to inform the Sunday Times to have it on the front page that Madiba has been released and he’s at home.

Madiba said he doesn’t want to be released at home, he wants to be released in Cape Town and he is going to first thank the people of Cape Town before he goes home. And so they had a hell of an argument about that and according to Fanie van der Merwe, Madiba said, ‘Well, if you want to release me in Soweto you will have to put me in leg irons and handcuff me, and that’s the only way you going to get me released there, I’m not cooperating with you at all.’ And that’s how they then agreed to release him in Cape Town.

So they were not organised for the release either. All their plans were thrown out. They were disorganised and we were disorganised. Everyone was disorganised.

Madiba was in charge, the only guy who was in charge of the situation.

Valli Moosa