Mandela's last interview before arrest resurfaces
A copy of the last print interview Nelson Mandela gave before going to prison in 1962 has been returned to the journalist who wrote it.
Headlined 'Native leader says: "Violence is out"' (under the title 'Hide-out Interview With Wanted Man'), the article was published in the Sunday Express on 14 May 1961.
It was written by South African journalist Peter Hazelhurst and had gone missing during the writer's travel years.
The article was returned to Hazelhurst after recently being found by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory with help from the South African National Library.
Ahmed Kathrada had in May 1961 walked into a newsroom and offered Hazelhurst the chance to interview Mandela, who had been in hiding for a month then. The National Party government would eventually arrest Mandela the following year, after hunting down the man dubbed the Black Pimpernel.
On the arranged date, Kathrada took Hazelhurst to the back room of a shop in central Johannesburg for what would be a 70-minute interview with the fugitive who would later become South Africa's first black president.
In the interview, Mandela shared his vision of "a national convention of all groups of the country which would form a new non-racial constitution to bring about a new non-racial and democratic South African society".
Hazelhurst says: "What I found amazing is that’s exactly what he said when he came out of prison."
The day after the interview was published, Hazelhurst was questioned by the police's Special Branch and its notorious leader Colonel Spengler, wanting to know Mandela's whereabouts.
Hazelhurst says: "They said, 'who led you there?'
"I said I was picked up on the street and I was blindfolded because I didn't want to compromise that very brave lady in the shop ... That’s why I went through that facade of using that in the lead."
The lead paragraph of the article was: "They took the blind-fold off. Sitting in front of me was Nelson Mandela, the most wanted man in South Africa."
Hazelhurst had written that into his story in order to protect Mandela and his comrades.
- Information and image courtesy of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. Read more here.