On April 27th 1994 people changed. 30 million of them. South Africa elected Nelson Mandela as their president. Two years prior to this such an outcome seemed far beyond the hopes of the most optimistic reformer. And yet it happened.
Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” On that day, a nation conquered fear. No one that was there will ever forget it.
I had met Mandela several times, and had dinner with Mandela, the amazingly dignified Walter Sisulu and Joe Slovo on one occasion in Bloemfontein in the run up to the elections. Ironically dinner with Joe Slovo consisted mostly of chatting about Manchester United – which seemed a little sublime as we were approaching what everyone assumed would be a bloody and violent election. At the time I was working with my close friend Charlene Smith, on the Sunday Times.
The enormous leap of faith, not by a few individuals, but by an entire nation as they prepared to step forward with a new world beneath their feet was beautifully captured in a song that reflected the moment, by South African Band, Mango Groove.
If South Africa, an entire nation, can overcome their fears, so can you.