Pretoria - Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has shared with the nation how she received the news of the unbanning of liberation movements and the release of political prisoners, including her former husband Nelson Mandela.
Madikizela-Mandela said in a Talk Radio 702 interview on Tuesday that the police informed her of former President FW de Klerk's announcement that Mandela would be released while she was attending the funeral of her grandson's father. She said the family was told to make arrangements to fetch Mandela from prison on 11 February 1990.
"We were so shocked by the death of the father of Zinzi's [Mandela's daughter] son so we had mixed feelings... we were excited and we were also in deep mourning... we just couldn't be extremely excited," said Madikizela-Mandela
De Klerk stunned the world on 2 February 1990 when he announced in Parliament that his government had decided to release Mandela unconditionally and unban the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other liberation organisations.
Mandela had been convicted of treason and sabotage in June 1964 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent the first 18 years of his sentence on Robben Island, doing hard labour. He later did time at Pollsmoor and Victor Verster prisons.
Nine days after the announcement, Mandela, with Madikizela-Mandela by his side, walked out of prison a free man.
"We knew the day would come because so many of our people had made sacrifices and many of our youth had lost their lives in the process," said Madikizela-Mandela.
The announcement led to the ANC suspending its armed struggle against the apartheid government. A few months later, sanctions against South Africa were suspended.
"It was a fulfilment of a dream; it was a culmination of our struggle and to us as a family we were ecstatic. From that day we knew that the history of our country would never be the same."
Madikizela- Mandela said she remembered the day Mandela walked out of prison as if it happened yesterday.
"I remember walking out of the Victor Verster Prison feeling and knowing that we are free and that the ANC would take over and that Madiba would lead this country to freedom."
Zinzi told Talk Radio 702 said although her father's release came at a difficult time, it brought joy and hope.
"The announcement came by and the irony here was that we'd worked tirelessly all our lives for the freedom of our people and my father."
Following the historical release of Mandela, the country held its first democratic elections in 1994. This saw Mandela take over as South Africa's first black president. He led the country until 1999.