Gordon Oliver - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Welcome to the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project. Our aim is to locate, document, digitise, and provide access to all archival materials related to Nelson Mandela. This is a work in progress. Here is a selection of materials arranged in exhibits for your enjoyment.
Cape Town Station, Cape Town
In the very early weeks of my mayoralty of Cape Town I wrote to Nelson Mandela at Victor Verster Prison in September 1989. The purpose of my letter was to introduce myself as mayor and to assure him of my City Council's total commitment to a non-racial society. (The Council had some years previously declared our public amenities – that is, our beaches, parks, halls, libraries – open to all. People of all colours happily swarmed on to the beaches, and surprisingly, the apartheid government did not send in the police. Our next ideal was to have the Group Areas Act repealed; it was out of our hands though, but we kept plugging away at that!)
Dr Mandela responded to my letter in his own handwriting and I still proudly have that letter in my personal files. He acknowledged my participation in the public march of 13 September 1989, led by Archbishop Tutu and Dr Allan Boesak, and countless other religious, civic, business and political leaders. He invited me to visit him but the prison authorities would not allow that.
On Dr Mandela's release from prison on 11th February 1990, it was my privilege to welcome him to the City Hall for his first public address to the nation and the world. I have a photograph of his arrival by car at the side of the City Hall late that hot afternoon.
He leapt out of the car, mindful of the masses of people who were waiting to hear him and the possibility that they could well swarm or mob him in their excitement to see him. I was at the car door, and when he exited the car I gave him a big hug which I'm sure took him by surprise.
Hastily we proceeded to the balcony of the city hall for his address. Immediately after that we had refreshments in the Mayor's Parlour. There I addressed him formally on behalf of the City, welcoming him and adding that no-one was free yet until a new political dispensation had come into being, as we were all imprisoned by our prejudices and fear.
I met that great man a number of times subsequently during and after my mayoralty. For me, and for all of us, this man is a tremendous source of hope and inspiration. I stand in awe of him and am so proud to have met him on more than one occasion.
Dr Mandela will always be a source of inspiration to the world. We give thanks for his greatness!
Quote: "Dr Mandela responded to my letter in his own handwriting."
Collection: Moments with a Legend