Soweto Gospel Choir. Nelson Mandela. Freedom.

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News reaches us that the Soweto Gospel Choir, has just won their third Grammy. Today is the day Nelson Mandela gained his Freedom.

The Soweto Gospel Chior’s album is titled Freedom.

Today is 11 February 2019.

29 years ago Nelson Mandela was released.

Those of us who were glued to a television set, alone at home, in taverns, pubs and with friends, around South Africa 29 years ago will understand what this day means.

11 February 1990  was the day we waited. And waited. And waited.


And Then it Happened

Nelson Mandela, hand in hand with Winnie Madikizela Mandela walked out of the then Victor Verster Prison after 27 years of incarceration. Nelson Mandela was Free.

That day we saw one of the most amazing events in the political history of the world when the African National Congress (ANC) leader spoke his first words of freedom. They were spoken from the balcony of the Cape Town City Hall on the Grand Parade to a huge crowd .

Everybody wanted to hear the words of the great man, hear what he had to say.

White South Africans were Afraid

Many white South Africans were fearful, after all they had been indoctrinated with the Swart Gevaar and Rooi Gevaar. For decades and they were apartheid beneficiaries and people feared retaliation. For many it was the beginning of what they believed to be their last days. They couldn’t imagine the concept of “one person, one vote” let alone a black president.

Uhuru for the People

But for the masses, who had been suffering apartheid oppression and who had waiting and praying for this day; who had spilled blood and buried loved ones – it was the first crack of daylight on the horizon.

In a suburban home in Joburg, together with a group of friends we crowded around the television, waiting to hear Mandela’s words, and to see and hear our new leader.

We knew that everything in our country was about to be turned upside down.

We had some idea what the liberation movement stood for, but we had no idea what was going to happen in the years ahead. Or how it would lead to our first democratic election on 27 April 1994 when almost 20 million South Africans cast their vote.

Nelson Mandela Speech on Balcony of Cape Town City Hall

But on this day, 29 years ago, in the late afternoon, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela appeared on the balcony of the Cape Town City Hall, like a storybook revolutionary leader He spoke to the people of South Africa – all the people of South Africa.

Here are a few extracts from that speech – those of my generation have them ingrained in our hearts

“I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all.

I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.

On this day of my release, I extend my sincere and warmest gratitude to the millions of my compatriots and those in every corner of the globe who have campaigned tirelessly for my release.”

After expressing appreciation and love for his wife and family. He continued:

“Today the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognise that apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. The mass campaign of defiance and other actions of our organisation and people can only culminate in the establishment of democracy. The destruction caused by apartheid on our sub-continent is in- calculable. The fabric of family life of millions of my people has been shattered. Millions are homeless and unemployed.”

Mandela Called for Unity

Nelson Mandela called for unity: “It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured. We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa. The freedom movement is a political home for you too. We call on the international community to continue the campaign to isolate the apartheid regime. To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process towards the complete eradication of apartheid.

Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way. Universal suffrage on a common voters’ role in a united democratic and non-racial South Africa is the only way to peace and racial harmony.”

Soweto Gospel Choir Sings Songs of Freedom

So back to the Soweto Gospel Choir who have just won the prestigious World Music Album Grammy for their collection of songs titled Freedom which hit #1 on the Billboard World Music charts.

Receiving the award on behalf of Soweto Gospel Choir were album producer Diniloxolo Ndlakuse  Shimmy Jiyane, Mary Mulovhedzi and Mulalo Mulovhedzi whose late father David Mulovhedzi co-founded the group with producer/director Beverly Bryer 17 years ago.

The Grammy Award winning album Freedom was recorded in June 2018 as part of the group`s tribute to the 100 Years of Mandela celebrations. It features a selection of South African struggle songs including their version of Johnny Clegg`s poignant Asimbonanga.

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