“I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”
So ends Nelson’s Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, one of the best selling political memoirs of all time. But after 115 chapters and 751 pages, charting his rise from herd boy to prisoner to president, the narrative slides to halt in 1994. Which begs the question: what really happened next?
More than 20 years later, the world will finally get an answer with the posthumous publication of a sequel based on a little known manuscript that Mandela wrote by hand but never completed, chronicling his time as South Africa’s first black president. Pan Macmillan announced on March 24 that it has acquired the UK and Commonwealth rights to the book which, as yet untitled, will hit shelves next year.
The second volume of autobiography will focus primarily on how one of the 20th century’s political giants set about building a multiracial democracy out of the ashes of racial apartheid. It was the time of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a new constitution and globetrotting diplomacy with leaders ranging from Bill Clinton to Muammar Gaddafi.
The book is likely to tackle Mandela’s regrets over failing to tackle the growing HIV/ Aids crisis, his painful divorce from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and why he opted to stand down after a single term, still cited as an example that many African leaders would do well to follow.
It will also detonate a political grenade by confirming his choice of successor: not his deputy Thabo Mbeki, who got the job, but Cyril Ramaphosa, who subsequently disappeared from politics for a decade. “It does reflect on the decision around succession,” said Verne Harris, director: research and archive at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which is editing the book.
“He’s pretty frank in that section. He talks about the political considerations and he does say that, in assessing those factors, he favours Cyril Ramaphosa.”
Mbeki ruled from 1999 until he was deposed by his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), in 2008. Mandela, a devout party man, was reluctant to criticise Mbeki in public but made clear his displeasure at the president’s Aids “denialism” and, it has been claimed, held sensitive conversations outdoors because he believed Mbeki had bugged his home. Ramaphosa, meanwhile, is now deputy president and a leading contender to succeed the current incumbent, Jacob Zuma.
For Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela received help from a ghost writer, Richard Stengel, an American author and journalist who went on to edit Time magazine and is now the US under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. Stengel is said to have been extraordinarily dedicated to the project, sitting at Mandela’s beside and tape recording him for hours to capture his cadence, grammar and tone. The book has sold millions of copies around the world and was adapted for a movie starring British actor Idris Elba .
Mandela had been determined to write part II on his own, Harris said, and began work on it in 1998 under the provisional title The Presidential Years. Each chapter was carefully written by hand then given to his personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, to be typed. Corrections were then made to the manuscript, then Mandela, whose clan name is Madiba, penned a fresh draft. He produced about 10 chapters and other sections intended to become chapters, totalling around 23 000 words, but “gradually lost steam and stopped writing” in late 2001 or early 2002, Harris said.
The memoir was then put on “the back burner” as Mandela focused his energies on various charitable projects, although it was publicly available at the foundation to anyone who made an appointment. In 2004 the anti-apartheid hero announced his retirement from public life – “Don’t call me, I will call you,” he said – and for the next decade his health steadily faded. Harris said: “In the last few years he was not energetic around these projects.”
News of the memoir are welcomed
But some time after Mandela’s death aged 95 in December 2013, his widow, Graca Machel, approached the foundation “and told us how much the book meant to him”. A committee was formed, led by Tony Trew and Joel Netshitenzhe, former heads of communications in the Mandela presidency, to pull the content together. Harris said roughly a third of the text will be Mandela’s own, written in the first person, while the rest will be the work of Trew and others, possibly in a different font.
“It’s going to be very explicit when Madiba speaks and it’s his voice,” he added. Royalties from the book will go to Mandela’s estate and the foundation. The executors of the estate could face rival claims from members of Mandela’s family, including Madikizela-Mandela, who have already clashed in a series of ugly disputes over his inheritance.
News of the memoir was welcomed by political commentators in South Africa. Justice Malala, a newspaper columnist and TV host, said: “The Mandela presidency was a fascinating experience and we don’t know enough about it because there wasn’t enough written about it or enough spoken about it. It was South Africa being remade. I’m quite keen to read what it was like for Nelson Mandela to walk into the Union Buildings and take power and use power.”
It has been widely suspected that Mandela favoured Ramaphosa to succeed him, but the confirmation could boost the latter’s reputation as “the anointed one” in a future leadership contest, Malala added. “It’s always been clear to many of us that he was the guy. To have it said explicitly like this is exciting and revelatory and casts a new light on the past.”
The Johannesburg-based foundation has released the first page of the book, dated 16 October 1998. It begins: “Men and women, all over the world, right down the centuries, come and go. Some leave nothing behind, not even their names. It would seem that they never existed at all. Others do leave something behind: the haunting memory of the evil deeds they committed against other people.” – © Guardian News & Media 2015