Truth, Reconciliation, and the Traumatic Past of South Africa

  • Kay Schaffer
  • Sidonie Smith


On February 11, 1990, tens of thousands of jubilant well-wishers lined the streets and squares of Cape Town. On that momentous day, the seventy-one-year-old Nelson Mandela left Victor Verster Prison, Paarl, after spending over twenty-seven years in prison there and on Robben Island. Mandela remembers the scene as “a happy, if slightly disorienting, chaos” (1994, 553). The huge crowds waited for hours for a first sight of their hero, frequently erupting with the shouts “Viva! Viva! Viva Nelson Mandela!” (DeVeaux 49). Finally, near dusk, Mandela appeared before a rally on Cape Town’s Grand Parade. His raised fist brought a roar from the crowds that swelled above the ululations of the women and thunderous sounds of feet pounding the toyi toyi on the pavement as supporters sang and danced to celebrate the return of Mandela, Prince of the Madiba clan.


Homeless Youth Nation Building Truth Commission National Party Apartheid Regime 
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  1. 10.
    Other notable prison narratives included Albie Sach’s Jail Diary (1966), Quentin Jacobsen’s Solitary in Johannesburg (1973), Hugh Lewin’s Bandiet: Seven Years in a South African Prison (1974), Winnie Madikizela Mandela’s “Detention Alone is a Trial in Itself” (1975), Breyten Breytenbach’s The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist (1984), Tim Jenkins’ Escape From Pretoria (1987), and Caesarina Kona Makoere’s No Childs Play: In Prison Under Apartheid (1988). Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    Later critics would claim that far from portraying “everyday life,” such narratives produced only “the spectacular” of oppression. See Ndeble, “The Rediscovery of the Ordinary.”Google Scholar

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© Human Rights and Narrated Lives 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kay Schaffer
  • Sidonie Smith

There are no affiliations available

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