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Four Corners -

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ANDREW OLLE: As Nelson Mandela nears his hour of triumph, the sense of excitement in South Africa is almost overwhelming. People are expecting miracles from the first black president.

Tomorrow's historic free election in South Africa is the end of a long road for Nelson Mandela. He's overcome extraordinary odds to reach this improbable threshold, but the greatest test lies ahead. Mandela shoulders the hopes of millions, and after years of oppression and injustice, suddenly the brakes are off their expectations.

The enormity of the task facing Mandela has been tellingly documented by another former exile from South African politics, the BBC's Michael Buerk. Buerk earned a worldwide reputation by alerting the world to the Ethiopian famine. He then turned his considerable skills to the growing crisis in South Africa, only to be expelled by Pretoria in 1987.

Michael Buerk had never met Nelson Mandela. On his return to South Africa, as well as meeting the man, he came face to face with the daunting challenge confronting President Mandela.

MICHAEL BUERK: Umkwakazani(?) where Mandela grew up, out in the eastern Cape. His ancestors were Tambu(?) kings, but a passing white man would only have seen a boy herding cows, just as Lupo Phatuxolo does for his uncle today.

Lupo's life is no different from Mandela's: leaving the cows when the bell rings for school; queuing up for a third-rate education.

TEACHER: Today, we are going to discuss white settlers in South Africa.

MICHAEL BUERK: It's the white man's story they're teaching to blacks. The textbook still starts when Jan van Riebeeck's Dutch settlers arrived at the Cape. Lupo and Mandela's people are ignored.

TEACHER: Jan van Riebeeck left the Cape in about 1662 having started gardens, growing crops and orchards in order to obtain fresh vegetables.

MICHAEL BUERK: There are 70 in Lupo's class. On passed experience, only one of them will get any further education. They're rehearsing for an important visitor. The most famous man on earth - his election as president now almost a formality - is coming home. They have no electricity or running water here, like 90 per cent of the black population. They live off the men who have been lucky enough to find work in the cities. They've heard the man from their village who once lived in this lime-washed hut is going to change everything.

In the great place, the home of the chief, they're working on lunch. Chief Jonghikaya is doing the job they were preparing Mandela for, long ago, before he left to become the nation's leader. Now they're slaughtering sheep on the parlour carpet in his honour, not knowing that an old man, intent on changing history, hasn't time for lunch.

JONGHIKAYA MTIRARA: We are feeling very much happiness that he's back, but he made a mistake by leaving them.

MICHAEL BUERK: You think he made a mistake by leaving here?

UNIDENTIFIED: He made a great mistake.

JONGHIKAYA MTIRARA: It's more important to be a chief because you've got to see to the needs of your local people. So being a chief is better to satisfy your people more than anything.

MICHAEL BUERK: It's an impressive homecoming for the man who had to steal two cows to get away from here. There's still much of the old tribal society that existed before the white man came, from which, he says, he draws his political ideals. Primitive and insecure he accepts, but, in Mandela's eyes, a society where all was shared, without exploitation, no rich or poor, where the old are respected and the young cherished.

NELSON MANDELA: I ask her what she ate, and she tell me she ate food.

MICHAEL BUERK: Pride in his people's past gave him self-respect, and he learned it under these trees.

NELSON MANDELA: My whole world was around this place, but as I grew up, it extended. My roots are naturally at home, but my gaze is beyond the horizons.

MICHAEL BUERK: Millions of rural blacks, dominated and deprived, are now looking towards those horizons, hoping Mandela will deliver the promised land.

UNIDENTIFIED: It is great to be led by Moses. Moses led his people from Egypt. Now Mandela will carry us to freedom.

MICHAEL BUERK: He doesn't disappoint them. He makes plenty of promises. Jobs for the village, so, he says, they won't have to live like animals. There'll be a new high school here, hospitals, and universities for all. Electricity, so that their children will be able to see at night, like, he says, the European children can. A better life and soon -one that a herd boy will not have to fight the system for.

Mandela moves on, without saying how his promises will be kept, where the billions for all to have even basic standards will come from, and that's the least everybody now expects.

LUPOWANA PHATUXOLO: I want a nice big house and cattle. That's what I'm waiting for. Mr Mandela can make it happen. If I get them, it will be because of him.

MICHAEL BUERK: The elders still gather under the tree where Mandela sat at their feet so long ago; only now, they're not talking about the past, but Mandela's promises for the future.

HOWARD SWETILE: He's trying now to change us, our village, now, because he said everybody here on our houses is going to change it.

MICHAEL BUERK: Do you think that will happen?

HOWARD SWETILE: Oh yes. Oh yes.


HOWARD SWETILE: Soon! He told .. he promised us after five years these house are to be changed.

MICHAEL BUERK: It'll be like the white towns.

HOWARD SWETILE: Yes. We .. so.. and we got lights every nights while you're sleeping. When we sleep and dreaming, we'll sleep under the lights. We're dreaming under the lights also.

MICHAEL BUERK: This is a good thing?

HOWARD SWETILE: It's a very, very good thing, you see.

MICHAEL BUERK: So everything will change?

HOWARD SWETILE: Everything must be changed.

MICHAEL BUERK: It's been in every sense a flying visit, leaving behind him a vision of a new South Africa, not just in the distant future, but soon. He does it everywhere.

He goes home to a very different world, to a suburb of Johannesburg - when I was here, exclusively white. Houghton is the Beverly Hills of South Africa, where the rich live behind high walls wondering what's to come. This is where Mandela lives now. I went to see his neighbours, the people who live just over the road.

The gates are part of sophisticated defences to keep out black resentment arriving in the shape of a burglar with an AK-47. It must be ironic for the man over the road that it's the whites who live behind bars now.

Inside the gates, the Beyers family live an enviable life. Mandela is a good neighbour, dropping round for their cocktail parties. Andre Beyers is a dentist, a rich one. He's got his computer hooked up to the stock exchange, to keep an eye on his money. Somehow it's still difficult to see them as neighbours.

When I was here, you know, he was the devil incarnate really. He was locked up in gaol. If you scrawled Mandela anywhere you could go to gaol yourself.

THERESE BEYERS: But he was a terrorist. You know, that's why he went to gaol, because he was a terrorist. And when you meet him, he is .. nothing is further from reality. He's just .. he's wonderful. He's a very, very nice man.

MICHAEL BUERK: You went for a very traditional sort of African meal there, what happened?

NICOLETTE BEYERS: It was just a meal that we ate....

THERESE BEYERS: Slaughtered the sheep.

NICOLETTE BEYERS: Yes, it was a sheep that was slaughtered the previous day for a celebration, and that's a very African tradition and ritual that they did.

MICHAEL BUERK: Was that strange for you? different?

NICOLETTE BEYERS: It was different for me, yes.

MICHAEL BUERK: How do you think things will change after the election? I mean, to what extent do you think your lifestyle will change?

THERESE BEYERS: I don't think our lifestyle is going to change at all. We're privileged. The work my husband does is not going to be affected immediately after the election, and I don't think it'll change at all. We've worked for what we've got and hopefully we can keep it.

MICHAEL BUERK: Meantime, they enjoy it to the hilt. A day out for the Beyers family starts with packing the cool box with plenty to drink, and loading it into the boot of one of their two white Mercedes for an afternoon out on their yacht. The Beyers family have been in apartheid's fast lane, even if they didn't approve of it. But being rich here doesn't make Andre uncomfortable, he can even feel hard done by himself.

ANDRE BEYERS: As a white South African, I'm already overtaxed by American or British standards. Income tax, personal tax is very high; dividends are taxed. We pay a 14 per cent VAT on everything we buy, and we really, really are very heavily taxed. And I believe a sound government will bring down taxes, not increase taxes.

MICHAEL BUERK: But what do you say to the people who must have said to from time to time 'There you are, you've got a nice house, swimming pool, boat, Mercedes, and there are lots of poor black people here. Isn't it right that some of that wealth should be spread round more'?

ANDRE BEYERS: You know, I'll be perfectly honest with you - nobody has ever said that to me. I work for my money. I earn every cent of it. I pay my taxes. I have nothing to hide. And I don't believe that anybody would really feel that. Maybe there are a million people who do feel that, but I don't feel that at all.

MICHAEL BUERK: Do you think Nelson Mandela actually thinks the same way you do?

ANDRE BEYERS: Well, I haven't really discussed this with the big man himself, but certainly I....

MICHAEL BUERK: But you've got an idea of the way he thinks?

ANDRE BEYERS: I'm quite certain he does, yes. Yes, quite certain.

MICHAEL BUERK: Plain sailing then, under a black president who went to gaol for equality? - that's another of their neighbour's promises.

You know how the whites live in South Africa. You know how unwilling your neighbours in Houghton have been over the years, and in many cases still are to share the good life that they have here. Are you not sometimes exasperated?

NELSON MANDELA: Well, naturally one of the most difficult things in life is to move society from one point to the other. However, addressing the basic needs of our people is not going to mean, naturally that we're going to lower the standards that are being enjoyed by other population groups. There are certainly a lot of resources that can be mobilised without affecting the present standards of other population groups.

MICHAEL BUERK: Twenty minutes, and a world away from Haughton, Clip(?) Town, a derelict corner of Soweto, where Mandela used to live. Seven million blacks now live in shacks. How will they get proper homes if Mandela's government lets the whites keep all their wealth? Electricity is something you carry on your head in Clip Town. It's still the wrong side of the tracks.

They marched to Clip Town in 1955, to draw up the Freedom Charter, a covenant with the people, demands for a multi-racial South Africa, jobs, houses, comfort for everybody, peace, freedom and fair shares. Mandela should have been on the platform, but he was a banned person then and had to hide himself in the crowd. The ANC thought natural justice was enough to deliver it all tomorrow. Tomorrow still hasn't come.

Forty years on, they're still only slogans. Across the track from where the Freedom Charter was signed, the ANC's campaign is being run from the hairdressers. She's one of Mandela's local organisers in Clip Town, straightening hair to make it look more European by day, campaigning to straighten out the system by night, passing on the new promises of President Mandela for the election on the 27th. Some customers heard the old ones, how they would change their lives.

Did you not realise at that time that your life was not as good as other people in this country?

PHINDIWE MAHLAMVU: No. That's why I say we were stupid that time. He made us .. he gave us the light, Mr Mandela. He gave us the light. We didn't know. We were satisfied with everything. A white man could move like that and maybe some money who would fall down by mistake; an African will run and take that money and say 'Boss, here's your money'.

And when we catch the clap, we say thank you. Honestly. My grandfather used to tell us, when you catch the clap from a white man, you say 'Thank you, boss'.

MICHAEL BUERK: Is it different now?

PHINDIWE MAHLAMVU: Now it's very .. 100 per cent different.



MICHAEL BUERK: And if a white man hits you down, what do you do?

PHINDIWE MAHLAMVU: You hit back. You hit back, yes.

MICHAEL BUERK: Attitudes may have changed, but conditions in Clip Town are worse now. Reality is the shit wagon in a town without toilets. In a country where half the black work force has no job, shovelling shit is a desirable occupation. Life here is a constant struggle to keep clean, where hygiene is a matter of mopping out the buckets, and scouring the open drains which run all along the streets of this township.

UNIDENTIFIED: You must clean out this place every day, then the place must look nice. And it's all sicknesses because they are pouring dirty water in here, you see. Just look at my house. Funny house. I only say it's a clean and nice house also. I must get a new life, nice air, like others.

MICHAEL BUERK: The winds of change haven't blown away the stench of the buckets. People are impatient.

How long do you think before Clip town is a better place to live?

PHINDIWE MAHLAMVU: Well, we'll see after the 27th what's going to happen. We will see. Like now, well, I don't want to talk badly about the ANC, but the ANC has promised that there will be housing, there will be schooling, there will education, there will be that and that and that.

MICHAEL BUERK: Will you give them one year? two years? three years? four years?

PHINDIWE MAHLAMVU: After the 27th, I would give them two months.

MICHAEL BUERK: Two months!


MICHAEL BUERK: Tall order, even for a man who's living death made him a legend. When I was here, he'd been in gaol so long I didn't know what he looked like. How does he think he can ever make up for centuries of depravation?

How much of a burden is it to you, as you go on this campaign, the expectations of people who've waited for so long for a multi-racial government and democracy? Won't they expect things to change very quickly? Isn't that a burden to you?

NELSON MANDELA: Naturally, there is that expectation, and it is an expectation that is justified, that at the moment a democratic government is restored, their problems will be addressed. But we are warning them not to have exaggerated expectations, because to address those social problems, like joblessness, lack of housing and other public services, is going to take some years, sometimes as much as five years.

MICHAEL BUERK: We flew across a troubled country - troubles that stand in the way of even starting to meet those expectations. The Orange Free State where some white farmers have said they want to kill him, but Bruce Harrison has invited Mandela here to ask what the new South Africa will mean for him and his workers.

There have been death threats to everybody coming to the Harrison's farm - white and black. Inside the farm shed, Mandela patiently writes down the grievances of the farm works; it's a long list. The Freedom Charter promised the land would belong to all who worked on it. Reality is 15 pounds a month and a life of semi-slavery.

NELSON MANDELA: The African National Congress is a friend of the worker.

MICHAEL BUERK: A glimpse into the future for the farmer's son. Outside a metaphor for the new South Africa - black politics invading the Harrison's garden, where the whites are waiting to meet their next president. Fear of reprisals keeps Bruce Harrison silent. Another farmer told me why he'd let Mandela meet his workers.

RUPERT FITZMAURICE: A lot of them are so ignorant about politics and that type of thing, and to give them a chance to meet someone, you know, they're hero-worshiping - it's fantastic, I think.

MICHAEL BUERK: What about the issues? There's a banner out there saying 'The land belongs to those who work it', which is something out of the Freedom Charter.

RUPERT FITZMAURICE: It's a difficult issue, isn't it, because it would be lovely to see African farmers. There aren't that many of our Afs who are well-enough educated.

MICHAEL BUERK: This educated Af wants everybody on board.

NELSON MANDELA: And what are you going to be?

BOY: A civil engineer.

NELSON MANDELA: Civil engineer. Oh very good. I hope you won't leave the country. I hope you are going to use your skill here. Very good. First place. That's an undertaking.

MICHAEL BUERK: Mandela moves on in his armed convoy. The tensions between the new black politics and the old culture of white domination close in again around the Harrison's farm. The farmer next door has forbidden the ANC to talk to his workers, so they come by stealth in the night.

They arrive in the guise of apostolic church, which even the white boss can't object to, and start a church service. Three in the morning, religion is cast aside for politics when the boss is safely asleep. They pin a ballot paper up on the wall and start educating people for a democracy they have never known - people who have never voted, and if the white boss has his way, never will.

The path of democracy doesn't run down the main street of the local town. The white right likes to flaunt its flags and guns in the faces of those over whom it has held sway for so long. This a threat clothed in swastikas and piety to Mandela's new South Africa. They gather outside the town hall to call on God's help to stop change dead, and swear in a shadow council to take over by force if there are any local concessions to blacks, and proclaim their own white homeland, a volkstaat. It's the politics of bigotry rooted in the past - the bar room belligerence of people who can't make war, but can make trouble.

ARNOLD DE BEER: Mandela has just recently said over his dead body will we have a volkstaat. But I'm not worried about his body, whether it's dead or alive, I'm worried about what I want, while I'm alive. And if I can't have it while I'm alive, I'll die for it.

MICHAEL BUERK: Mr Mandela says 'Look, what's the big problem? You guys actually work with blacks, you have blacks working for you, you grow up with blacks and so on, why is it so difficult to accept this idea?'.

ARNOLD DE BEER: Well, I live pretty well with my animals as well, my cat and my dog, everybody else in my house, everybody else who works for me. I have no problem with that, but I'm the boss.

MICHAEL BUERK: Do you find it difficult to accept the idea of somebody else being the boss?

ARNOLD DE BEER: Not if it's a white being my boss. A black will never qualify to be my boss. He's not clever enough to be my boss. They can't think the way I do. They can't think for me, so I'm ahead of them anyway. They still have a lot of catching up to do before they reach the stage where I am.

MICHAEL BUERK: But there's another price to pay for apartheid, a price Mandela is expecting from his people for a new South Africa - forgiveness. In Maokeng township, they want something different. Mandela is a symbol of victory after a decade of protest politics verging on urban war. He wants them to think of co-operation and citizenship. They want their own back first - not against the whites, but against the blacks who've done their dirty work for them, starting with the Mayor, who's sharing Mandela's platform.

UNIDENTIFIED: Comrade, I want to ask one question about Maokeng. The Mayor told us he didn't want the ANC in Maokeng. So what is he doing here? He must get out of the stadium! For a long time he has been saying that the ANC is stupid and foolish.

UNIDENTIFIED: I'm not going to allow that question to come over, thank you.

MICHAEL BUERK: To the people of Maokeng, Mayor Koekoe is the man who got rich oppressing them on behalf of apartheid - a collaborator who now says he's joined the ANC.

NELSON MANDELA: They say they don't want the Mayor to be amongst us because of his past sins. We understand that the anger of the people, because they were oppressed, persecuted by the Nationalist Government using our black brothers(?). I understand your anger. I was angry with the National Party. They kept me chained for 27 years. I am wedded with them to build a new South Africa. Why can't you work with a man like Mr Kwekei?

MICHAEL BUERK: They don't like it, but nobody else could have said it and got out alive. I remember when resented blacks, co-opted into the system, wasn't spat out into a microphone, but played out in primeval violence. The police tried to the protect them and the business monopolies they'd been given as a reward, but several paid a terrible price, often burned to death in the street. That resentment is still there.

In Maokeng, they burned garages that only Mayor Kwekei was licensed to operate, but they didn't get him - he lives on in his big house in the township, still dominating the community.

Do you think you're popular in the township?


MICHAEL BUERK: Why do you think that?


MICHAEL BUERK: If you're popular, why have they burned your garages and your taxis?

CASWELL KOEKOE: Jealous people must do it.

MICHAEL BUERK: They're jealous of your money, are you saying?

CASWELL KOEKOE: They are jealous of my status.

MICHAEL BUERK: He'll still have that status after the election, even if Mandela is running the country, he'll still be running Maokeng - a man they say was a gangster, whose men murdered those who wouldn't pay their rent. His gang, they say, robbed workers returning with their pay packets, and killed 102 people.

What about these gangsters in the township? There are people here who say....

CASWELL KOEKOE: No, no, I know nothing about that.

MICHAEL BUERK: Well, there are people here who say that you were behind that.

CASWELL KOEKOE: Don't take things from the people. I know nothing about it. Those are gossips. Now, if you are picking up that I cannot go with you.

MICHAEL BUERK: That's why I'm asking you....

CASWELL KOEKOE: Ask what affects me. Don't ask me about gangsters. I'm not a gangster. I'm a big man, very much respectable.

MICHAEL BUERK: Do you carry a gun?

CASWELL KOEKOE: I have a gun, yes. You have yours; I have mine.

MICHAEL BUERK: I don't have a gun. Why do you carry a gun?

CASWELL KOEKOE: No, it's my right .

MICHAEL BUERK: The toll gates on the road to Durban mark the frontier between the new politics and old rivalries. This is where you drive into Natal, the homeland of the Zulus, locked into a low-level civil war, where Mandela's hopes seem like wishful thinking and Mandela himself is not safe.

NEWSREADER: The ANC calls off the Mandela Zulu king summit because of security fears.

REPORTER: The ANC's [...] says the reason for the postponement is that Nelson Mandela's safety could not be guaranteed.

MICHAEL BUERK: The countryside around Edendale(?) has been set aflame by a war for territory between the traditionalist Inkatha Party and the ANC; it's a war that's already cost 10,000 lives.

What happened here?

DAVID NTOMBELA: Well, I was attacked at Edendale. As you can see, one bullet went through here.

MICHAEL BUERK: David Ntombela is said to be behind much of the killing around Edendale. He's the regional chairman of Inkatha in the Natal midlands, a warlord, and prime target for the ANC.

DAVID NTOMBELA: The bullet hit here and [...]

MICHAEL BUERK: Ntombela's father and two sons have been killed in this war, and lie buried in his backyard.

DAVID NTOMBELA: If they attack us, we'll defend us. We'll defend us. You know I've got .. we've got stones. A pen, a writing pen, a ballpoint, is a dangerous weapon. If I am throwing to you, it might kill you. I'm not coward. I'm not scared of anything. Some might scared of. I'm not scared of anything. As a [...] I'm not scared of anything.

MICHAEL BUERK: Do you think your people are braver than the ANC then?

DAVID NTOMBELA: Well, because they believe in God. You people pray if you believe if God is with you.

MICHAEL BUERK: He talks of ballpoint pens but there are guns everywhere, even a huge automatic tucked into his trousers has been supplied indirectly by the South African Government. He's told us there's trouble in one of his villages. The man who talks of God and self-defence is off to appeal to baser instincts. He's off to start a new war.

Until now, the people of Impendle have been at peace, but last night a man was killed a few yards from here. What Ntombela hadn't told us is that it's his men who are being held for the murder for killing an ANC organiser trying to set up a meeting for the people of Impendle.

The war has started here, he says, now you must defend yourselves. He tells them he has thousands of guns and powerful mooti(?) - medicine - to protect them. If they let the ANC hold a meeting, they'll come back and take their wives. He tells them he is coming to operate here and cleanse the area of the ANC. War is in their veins. They must fight.

DAVID NTOMBELA: Today we see something we have never seen before. People are dying night and day. If you are chased from here, where can you? Nowhere. There is nowhere.

MICHAEL BUERK: An hour later, they're clamouring for blood. The chant is: They provoked us. Blood will be on the ground.

I've seen the results of this war, but never before how cynical men play on people's fears. Ntombela leaves for another part of his territory, trying to stop Mandela's election, however many lives it takes. The local headman is left to sort out the details.

UNIDENTIFIED: Youth! What are you waiting for? Get down to work!

MICHAEL BUERK: The people follow their orders, heading off down the valley en masse, to see if anybody would dare to come to the ANC's meeting. It's a matter of knives and clubs, but they've got the guns if they need them. The meeting has been cancelled. The few people who came anyway flee up onto the hillside. Impendle is now in a corner of the country an intelligence chief told me could be South Africa's Vietnam.

NELSON MANDELA: The potential for it to be that bad is there. We must not despise the capacity of elements to worsen the present situation, because that was the approach in Angola, that was the approach in Mozambique to be dismissive about a position. We must not make that mistake, even though I don't think they have got the capacity to start a civil war. I think they'll be smashed very easily, but one doesn't know what may happen; and therefore, it is necessary to engage these people in dialogue and try to persuade them to abandon their suicidal schemes.

MICHAEL BUERK: Back in Impendle, the headman doesn't think of it as suicide, and took me to see his sangoma(?) - a traditional healer - who he thinks can read the future. The sangoma's hut is a link with the tribal past - traditions Inkatha invokes to fight Mandela's plans for a united South Africa.

Not surprisingly, the bones show the future full of troubles. She gives him reassurance and a warning that she says comes from his ancestors. His enemies won't be able to kill him unless he attacks them. But he's already got medicine to protect him either way.

The mooti will protect you?

MASTER SHELEMBE: Of course, yes. As you can see now, I've got one here. There's....

MICHAEL BUERK: How good is the protection?

MASTER SHELEMBE: Say if I'm fighting two, but if you're really fighting but you can't see me. If I hit you first, you can't see me, then I just do what I like.

MICHAEL BUERK: This is what Mandela is fighting - the crushing weight of South Africa's history. Three decades ago, that fight seemed to be over, when they locked away for life the man who now will be president of a multi-racial South Africa.

REPORTER: At the back entrance to the Pretoria court, large crowds gather to watch the accused being driven away to start their life sentences.

MICHAEL BUERK: That first day on Robneneiland, it took a strong sense of purpose to defy a system that wanted to destroy him.

NELSON MANDELA: When they wanted us to walk fast, which we considered to be below our dignity, we resisted, in spite of the threats which they gave us. We did that not so much because we're brave, but because the battle had to be fought and won at that moment, because it would determine then how we'd be treated for the rest of our lives.

MICHAEL BUERK: So when they said 'speed up', you said 'no'?

NELSON MANDELA: No, we refused. We just walked, and when they said 'Look, this is Robenneiland. We'll kill and bury you and nobody would know about you', we said 'That is your duty. We have our own duty'.

MICHAEL BUERK: That duty will now take him through a different set of gates, into the Cape Town Parliament. Here, he'll have to deal with realities, not dreams; difficult choices, not easy promises. It'll take more than courage to build Mandela's promised land.

One last question: Are you a brave man, Mr Mandela?

NELSON MANDELA: Well, there is a saying in our language that the family of a brave man cries every day, and sometimes it's not wise to be brave.

ANDREW OLLE: And the man of the hour, Nelson Mandela, soon to become President of South Africa.