Mandela Fellow Prisoners Recall the Past, Express Reservation on Some Present-day Events

Responding to questions from the audience on the ‘Fees Must Fall Campaign’, Goldberg replied: “I love our students, but to burn down laboratories to the tune of R100 million, because you want free education?”

Ahmed Kathrada (L) with Prof. Dennis Goldberg.


From Rusana Philander in Cape Town, TZ Business News.


Fond memories of the towering African leader Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela  will probably never fade away; at least that is the impression coming out of Drakenstein Prison at Paarl in the Western Cape.

This February 2017 two former prisoners talked about their time with Mandela,  who is also fondly referred to as Madiba. The event marked the first Nelson Mandela  prison Lecture and was delivered at the prison where the first black South African President  spent his last days in the fetters of racism.

Madiba’s fellow inmates poured their love for one of Africa’s best sons.

Mandela was head strong, Prof. Dennis Goldberg (83) recalled;  “and Walter (Sisulu) would say Madiba,  let’s think again. We had a vision of a society that was going to take a while to build,” he said.

Ahmed Kathrada (86) referred to Mandela and the other African National Congress (ANC) leaders in prison at the time as leaders who led by example.

Nelson Mandela, the first President of South Africa died on December  5, 2013, at the age of 95 after suffering from a prolonged respiratory infection.

Prof. Goldberg and  Ahmed Kathrada were invited to share their memories at the first commemoration lecture at the barbed wire prison located at the foot of Paarl mountains.

Prof. Dennis Goldberg (83) was a comrade and fellow Rivionia Trialist of Nelson Mandela.  Comrade Ahmed Kathrada  was also a Rivionia Trialist.

The Rivonia Trial was named after Rivonia suburb in  Johannesburg where founding ANC leaders were arrested. After the arrest incriminating documents  were discovered at Liliesleaf Farm  where Mandela hid to evade security police by pretending to be a gardener and cook called David Motsamayi (meaning “the walker”).

The comrades,  including Goldberg  and Kathrada   were rounded up,  tried and sent to prison.  The two freedom fighters were this February 2017 invited to share their memories at Drakenstein Prison.

A somewhat sombre atmosphere prevailed at the prison as it became clear Kathrada and Goldberg miss Madiba, and that they really  liked him.

People are still in disbelieve that Mandela passed away four years ago. But when you drive into the prison, right at the entrance you are met by the most magnificent statue of this colossal of a man, as he walks fist in the air. It was here where he took his first steps to freedom on 11 February 1990.

Goldberg mentioned that it actually felt strange to deliver a speech in a prison;  and in one where Mandela served the last years of his 27 years of incarceration.



“I was blessed to have known Madiba. After 22 years out of prison we had a Freedom Charter. Things were principled. It’s a tragedy today. What impressed me about Madiba was that he was a thinker,” Goldberg said.

“Sometimes Walter [Sisulu] would say, Madiba let’s think again. This was because we had a vision of a society that was going to take a while to build. These were a group of principled leaders who were truly outstanding. We were not angels, but we had a vision of a better South Africa and that vision kept us alive. ,” he said.

Responding to questions from the audience on the ‘Fees Must Fall Campaign’, Goldberg replied: “I love our students, but to burn down laboratories to the tune of R100 million, because you want free education?

Kathrada spent many years in prison for what he believed in. Calvyn Gilfellan, also a former political activist and who introduced Kathrada and Goldberg to the audience  applauded the fact that even with their advanced ages and Kathrada’s frail health, that the two men still attended the event.

“We came here today as a free people,” Gilfellan explained. “And to celebrate the legacy of Madiba and 27 years of freedom. These two men [Kathrada and Goldberg] are amongst the last Rivonia Trialists who are still alive. We want to take the values they lived and plant it in the next generation.”

Kathrada told the audience that Mandela led by example.  He remembered  that the first thing they did in prison was to get into cold showers, which he had never experienced before.

Kathrada  also shared memories on Chief Albert Luthuli and Govan Mbeki who also  led by example even in prison:  “We had to persuade Govan Mbeki that due to his health not to go on a hunger strike with us,” he said.

“Due to race my leaders only got short pants and mine were long ones. I objected but Madiba, said that I must not play into the hands of the enemy,” Kathrada remembered.Three years later everyone got long pants.”

Kathrada also remembered Madiba did not get bread for 10 years in prison.

“Madiba received an offer to return to Transkei and have his freedom, but he refused,” Kathrada said. “I spent my life in prison with exemplary leaders who did not want privileges. I am indebted to great leaders and the fact that I could make my contribution to the liberation struggle.”