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THE POWER OF ONE - MERCHANT TAYLOR SCHOOL, LONDON, SEPTEMBER 18 - 7PM
"Mandela’s cell on Robben Island was the colour of a jade sea under a stormy sky. It is little more than three paces wide and five long. Its high narrow window looks onto an exercise yard next to grape arbours, peach trees and flowers grown from pips and smuggled seeds. "Visiting the prison in 1998, Mandela gazed into the cell where he spent two decades and mused, ‘It seems so small now, but so big then’. And it was. He brought the universe into his cell: books, reflections on political debates, analyses of news broadcasts from smuggled radios, and snippets of news from contraband newspapers and journals.
Payment for smuggling was often made in diamonds – obtained by MK cadres from Angolan diggings or rivers – which were either given to warders or sold. ‘One warder now has a beautiful house on Signal Hill in Cape Town,’ reflected Mbeko Zwelakhe, a former MK soldier involved in smuggling operations, and who today runs a security company. The smuggling routes MK soldiers used persisted after the democratic elections in 1994 and even now are used to smuggle contraband, whether diamonds, stolen vehicles or drugs.
In prison Mandela learnt the lessons of survival: ‘Prison is designed to break one’s spirit and destroy one’s resolve. To do this, the authorities attempt to exploit every weakness, demolish every initiative, negate all signs of individuality. Our survival depended on understanding what the authorities were attempting to do to us, and sharing that understanding with each other. It would be very hard, if not impossible, for one man alone to resist. But the authorities’ greatest mistake was to keep us together, for together our determination was reinforced. We supported each other and gained strength from each other. Whatever we knew, whatever we learned, we shared and by sharing we multiplied whatever courage we had individually.’
"In a letter to Tim Maharaj he wrote: ‘It has been said a thousand and one times that what matters is not so much what happens to a person than the way such person takes it.’" _ Excerpt from Mandela: In Celebration of a Great Life by Charlene Smith © 2014.






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