Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

South Africa: What If Madiba Was Never One of Us?


"What would have happened had Madiba died in prison?" Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu asked at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Indeed, what would have happened?

Would South Africa have been the country it is now? Was the path to democracy inevitable, even if Mandela had not walked free from prison, led the process of peaceful transition and become president in 1994? In truth, South Africa's destiny is so entwined with that of its founding father that it is almost impossible to imagine how history would have unfolded without him

Nelson Mandela's pain was so palpable when Walter Sisulu died on 5 May 2003. He allowed me to interview him about the death of his friend and comrade of 62 years; it was not an easy thing to do. It seemed as if I was invading his grief by trying to probe deep into his memory. But he wanted the world to know about the relationship which shaped him into the international icon he turned out to be.

He told how Sisulu took his breath away the first time they met. Mandela was a young aspirant lawyer and his cousin took him to see Sisulu, then an...

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