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MANDELA: THE LIVING LEGEND (article first published : 2004-04-2)

Ten years ago, the Apartheid regime came to an end in South Africa. And on May 10 1994, Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the South African President. To mark this anniversary, BBC World on DStv will have special programmes from South Africa including a definitive two-part documentary on Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary life.

Mandela: The Living Legend is a two-part documentary which contains unprecedented access to Nelson Mandela, world leaders and those closest to him. It is the story of Mandela seen through his own eyes and through the recollections of both famous and ordinary people who have played a part in his life - from the man who first picked him out as a potential leader, to the gaoler who spied on him in prison; from Bill Clinton, the President he stood by, to FW De Klerk the President he ousted.

Also featured is an interview with long time ally, Fidel Castro about his relationship with Mandela. The documentary follows Mandela as he goes about his day-to-day activities in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, to uncover this truly extraordinary man.

Episode One on April 24 at 18h10 features Nelson Mandela at home and abroad – at lunch with The Queen, meeting Lord Richard Attenborough and at the glitzy Tribecca Film Festival.

In a series of exclusive interviews with David Dimbleby, Madiba talks about his early years as a country boy in the Transkei and the day he ran away from home to avoid an arranged marriage; about boxing, and dancing, and girls; about his involvement with the ANC and the decision to use violence, if it was required. Once labelled a terrorist, he was convicted of treason and jailed for 27 years.

During the 2003 Earth Resources Summit in Johannesburg, world leaders queued to meet him and be photographed at his side. He can have 10 different engagements in a day and make 50 telephone calls and he shows no signs of stopping. His lifelong friend and family doctor believes: “If you stopped him he might just lie down and pass on.”

Other contributors to the programme include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Naomi Campbell.

Episode Two on May 1 at 18h10 takes viewers back to Robben Island, where Madiba served the first 18 years of his life sentence. He talks about making a stand against the prison system, about the ways in which the prisoners tried to influence their jailers, and how prison changed him from being “arrogant”.

In a continuing series of in-depth interviews with David Dimbleby, he also talks candidly about his former wife, Winnie, and about the knife-edge negotiations that took him to the presidency. On the subject of his time in office, he defends the controversial decision to offer amnesty to perpetrators of violence during the Apartheid years and responds to criticisms that he didn’t do enough to tackle the scourge of AIDS. He also remembers fondly the 1995 Rugby World Cup final – and the day he used the game to advance the cause of reconciliation across the colour line.

Contributors Bill Clinton and FW de Klerk share their recollections of Mandela, and the programme hears from long-time ally, Fidel Castro, in his first interview with the BBC for over 20 years.

Mandela’s daughter, Zenani, travels with him to Indonesia and talks movingly of trying to get to know the father who played so little a part in her childhood, and Graca Machel, whom Mandela married in 1998, tells the story of the romance which revived both their lives.




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