Mar 2010 - A clenched fist but a hand extended

01 June 2013

Last month marked 20 years since Nelson Mandela walked out of the Victor Verster prison, ending 27 years of imprisonment for his ‘crimes’ of demanding equal treatment of all human beings and calling for an end to the racism of apartheid. Like so many of us I remember that moment on 11 Feb 1990 vividly – but I can hardly believe it is two decades since it happened.


But that is only one of the incredible things about Mandela. There are plenty more. I’m not a man for having heroes – but his is an epic story of courage and conviction that is an example and an encouragement to us all.

I read a newspaper report marking the anniversary that said, ‘Mandela no longer speaks in public’ and I thought to myself, ‘He doesn’t need to.’


Simply to see the man is a reminder of what we can achieve if we are convinced of our ideals and remain true to ourselves.


And I also realised that these two decades have brought about a change in myself. All those years ago I harboured a deep resentment, even hatred, against all South African politicians who served in that inhuman regime – F.W. de Klerk as much as any. Yet when Isa w him on the television again I realised that what he did at that time also bore the stamp of a courageous man doing what he knew to be right.


Mandela’s call for peace and reconciliation was as important as his demand for freedom for his people and respect for all mankind.


We remember the image of that clenched fist in the air as Mandela tasted freedom from prison for the first time in 27 years. To appreciate the man fully we should also recall the hand of friendship he then extended to his enemies.

Back »

By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information please refer to ASLEF’s Privacy Policy