Thursday, February 11, 2010

First Strides into Freedom: 11 February 1990

It has been 20 years since one of the most phenomenal events in modern history occurred; the release of Mr. Nelson Mandela from prison. The exact sequence of that day's events are jumbled in my mind but I clearly remember the euphoria and excitement as we huddled around a television  set in our school in Swaziland. We were glued in awe and silence as Mr. Mandela took his first steps into freedom after 27 years of incarceration.

11 February 1990: Mr. Nelson Mandela greets the crowd outside
Victor Verster Prison, Paarl, South Africa

I could ramble on about the significance of this day but  instead I'm leaving that to the lyrics of the pop idol kids like me growing up in Southern Africa worshipped; the (late) great, irrepressible Brenda Fassie (a.k.a MaBrr). Brenda Fassie's song Black President was originally released in 1989 (5 years before Mr. Mandela even became president). The song was  promptly banned by the apartheid regime. Ludicrous as it may sound today, the  paranoid apartheid dons used to ban everything; books, songs and even people!

Black President
by Brenda Fassie (3 Nov 1964 - 9 May 2004) 
The year 1963
The people's president
Was taken away by security men
All dressed in a uniform
The brutality, brutality
Oh, no, my black president
Him and his comrades
Were sentenced to isolation
For many painful years
For many painful years
Many painful years
Of hard labour
They broke ropes
But the spirit was never broken
Never broken
Oh, no, my, my black president

He broke ropes
But his spirit was never broken
Never broken
Oh oh oh, my president
Now in 1990
The people's president
Came out from jail
Raised up his hand and said
'Viva, viva, my people'
He walked the long road
Back, back to freedom
Back, back to freedom
Freedom for my black president
Let us rejoice for our president
Let us sing for our president
Let us pray for our president
Let us sing, let us dance
For Madiba give us freedom
We thank you Lord
For listening to our prayers
Night and day
Oh oh oh, my president
My president
I will die for my president
I will sing for my president
I will stand and say
Viva, viva, viva, viva, viva, viva
© Brenda Fassie  

Later in 1990, Nelson Mandela made an unannounced, surprise visit to my school while on a trip to Swaziland. It was not an official visit. Wednesday afternoons were the time that we were allowed to go to town unless we had been punished or did not want to go. In the greatest irony, those who had been punished were still at school and we able to meet Nelson Mandela while the rest of us were in town. This is something all of us who went to town earlier in the afternoon will regret for the rest of our lives. 


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Happy New Year since this is my first comment in the New Year. I have a poem for Mr. Mandela at my blog. THanks for the lyrics to Brenda's song. It gives me goose bumps (?) whenever I listen to that song.

Nana Yaa Boatemaa said...

Whaaat??? I think I might kick you too;)

Mike said...

Leaders of African countries should set aside a day.. just one day.. to sit at Mandela's feet and listen to lessons he might have for them. They dont have to accept everything he says, but at least, listen.
Not wait till he dies before trooping to his funeral to pay respects.

I havent heard this song. Will go look for it.

Abena Serwaa said...

@NFA; Happy New Year! Seems like it has been ages. Will definitely have to check out your blog post.

@Nana Yaa Boatemaa LOL, the visit was unexpected. It was only after our town outing that we all realized that we had missed out! The lucky ones vowed to never wash their hands again :(

@Mike; You are so right and ironically, some of his old allies (did someone say Mugabe?) refuse to learn lessons from their old friend.

I was thinking earlier of posting the Black President video ( but I did not want to take the emphasis away from the words.