#FreedomDay: Bestsellers celebrating the lives of South African struggle heroes

The late Nelson Mandela and his then wife, the late Winnie Madikizela Mandela, upon Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. Picture: Greg English/AP

The late Nelson Mandela and his then wife, the late Winnie Madikizela Mandela, upon Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. Picture: Greg English/AP

Published Apr 27, 2018


As we celebrate Freedom Day today, Orielle Berry looks at some of the best selling books that celebrate the lives of struggle heroes who fought to achieve our democracy.

Long Walk to Freedom Commemorative Edition by Nelson Mandela (Little Brown Hardbacks)

This iconic book has come out in several  version and this lavish commemorative edition is one to treasure. Nelson Mandela - international hero; with a lifelong dedication to fighting against racial oppression and injustice; Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

One of the most compelling and inspiring men in the world, revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights.

Long Walk To Freedom is his moving autobiography, - an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph.

*See also Dare Not Linger - The Presidential Years by Nelson Mandela, Mandla Langa; Foreword by Graca Machel; Nelson Mandela - Portrait of an Extraordinary Man by Richard Stengel; Nelson Mandela - The Authorised Biography by Anthony Sampson

The Rainbow People of God by Desmond Tutu (Double Storey)

For many years, while Nelson Mandela was in prison, Desmond Tutu was  the focus of hope for racial justice in South Africa, The Rainbow People of God is a title which enables us to appreciate the extent to which his persistent voice of reason, compassion and faith contributed towards the struggle to end apartheid during those dark years. It highlights the courage, passion and dedication of one man driven by his faith and sense of justice to overcome one of this century's greatest abuses of human rights.

Oliver Tambo Remembered by Pallo Jordan (Picador Africa Heritage Series)

Originally published in 2007, this compilation of memories is a celebration of what would have been Oliver Reginald Tambo's 90th birthday. Friends and associates remember OR the leader, the comrade and the man. It celebrates not only the impact that OR had on South Africa's future, but also the character of a selfless, compassionate leader, who raised the international profile of the ANC through his wise and intelligent guidance, his humility and integrity, and his unyielding commitment to the struggle.

*See also profiles by Adelaide Tambo and Luli Callinicos among others I Write What l Like (Paperback, 40th Anniversary Edition) 

Steve Biko; Foreword by Njabulo S. Ndebele (Pan MacMillan)

Before his untimely death in detention at age 30, Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko was instrumental in uniting blacks in the struggle

against the apartheid government .

This 40th anniversary edition includes a foreword by Njabulo S. Ndebele, personal reflections on Steve Biko and Black Consciousness,

as well as Biko’s first known published piece of writing. It also features a collection of Biko’s columns entitled I Write What I Like  published in the journal of the South Africa Student Organisation (SASO) under the pseudonym of "Frank Talk"; other journal articles, interviews and letters written by Steve Biko at the time; an Introduction by Nkosinathi Biko; a preface by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and a moving memoir by Father Aelred Stubbs, which pays tribute to the

courage and power of this young leader, who became one of Africa's and world's  heroes.

*See also The Testimony Of Steve Biko by Millard W. Arnold; Bounds of Possibility - The Legacy of Steve Biko and Black Consciousness by Barney Pityana, Mamphela Ramphele, Malusi Mpumlwana, Lindy Wilson

Reflections in Prison 

Mac Maharaj; Edited by Mac Maharaj, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Andimba Toivo ja Toivo, John Nyati

Pakela, Eddie Daniels, Billy Nair (Zebra Press)

In the first three months of 1976, during his imprisonment on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela wrote the bulk of his autobiography "Long Walk

to Freedom". This was an illegal act, and the manuscript had to be smuggled out by fellow prisoner Mac Maharaj on his release that year.

Maharaj used the opportunity to ask Mandela and other political prisoners to write essays about our political future, also smuggled

out with Mandela's autobiography, and  published 25 years later in this book.

These essays provide a snapshot of the thinking of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and other prominent Robben Island prisoners

before the 1976 Soweto uprising changed the face of politics in South Africa. 

Each essay is preceded by a biographical introduction and a sketch of the author specially commissioned for this volume.

Memoirs by Ahmed Kathrada (Zebra Press)

Ahmed Kathrada's autobiography is a moving, touching and often amusing read about a man who not only observed, but also actively participated in the shaping of a country's history. 

Born a shopkeeper's son in the rural town of Schweizer-Reneke, he became the trusted confidante of some of the most prominent political figures in South Africa's struggle history, among them Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.

Politically active at the age of 10, and joining the Young Communists' League at 14, Kathrada – or "Kathy", as friends and family affectionately called him – devoted his life to the freedom struggle.

Persecuted, driven underground and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Rivonia Trial, Kathrada spent 18 years on Robben Island.

Eventually released from prison after 26 years, he eschewed a cabinet post, instead opting to oversee the Robben Island Museum project. He offers rare glimpses into his and other activists' lives and sketches poignant cameos of those who would become our post-apartheid leaders.

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