11 Dec 2013

Nelson Mandela’s 65th birthday – ITN archive (1983)

In July 1983 Nelson Mandela celebrated his 65th birthday. ITN’s Mike Hanna spoke with anti-apartheid campaigners Helen Suzman and Winnie Mandela about the renewed calls for his release.

Suzman, leader of the South African Progressive Party, had been allowed to visit Mandela in Cape Town’s Pollsmoor Prison for his birthday and found him, after 21 years in prison, in “remarkably good spirits” and good health.

She said she thought he still had a role to play in South Africa politics if released, but added that any release would probably place the ANC chief under the sort of government restrictions that would stop him from leading the normal life of a political leader.

Hanna, ITN’s South Africa corresondent, also visited his Winnie Mandela, the ANC leader’s then wife, who was living under a government banning order in the remote Orange Free State town of Brandfort, 200 miles from the family home in Soweto.

Under the terms of the ban, Mrs Mandela was unable to leave the town without government permission, could not be quoted in South Africa, and could not meet more than one person at a time. Despite the incarceration of her husband and the fact she had suffered detention, banishment or been under some form of government ban for 20 of the previous 21 years, Mrs Mandela remained adamant that her husband would “lead this country to freedom”.

As Nelson Mandela refused to negotiate any release under the terms offered by the apartheid regime, it would be seven more years before he walked free from Victor Verster prison with Winnie at his side.