Mandela’s autobiography undergoes edit, new version out soon

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Factual, spelling and grammatical errors in Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk To Freedom have been corrected for an updated version due out early next year.

Danielle Melville, spokeswoman for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said yesterday the autobiography first published 20 years ago has had an “evolution”.

She said the foundation’s “research and archive team have been locating, documenting and interrogating resources” to fact check the book.

“This continuing labour has revealed a number of inaccuracies in the published text,” she said.

These inaccuracies relate also to court room evidence, ANC-related matters and Mandela’s private life.

Researchers worked through Mandela’s private papers, which the foundation possesses to “undertake the robust memory work which is essential to deeper understanding of his life and times”.

Mandela started writing the first draft of Long Walk while imprisoned on Robben Island in 1976.

“But before it was finally published it followed an almost two decade journey involving numerous other people,” said Melville.

Among the errors corrected is the year that Mandela’s father died. The former statesman wrote that his father died in 1930, while historical evidence places this at either 1927 or 1928.

Melville said Long Walk also “records Madiba as wearing a leopard-skin kaross during his 1962 trial”.

“And yet contemporary news reports identify the kaross as having been made from jackal skins,” said Melville.

“In 2013, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela confirmed the kaross was made from jackal skins and revealed that she had the artefact in her possession.

“It is now on loan from her to the foundation and is on display in its Centre of Memory permanent exhibition.”

The foundation has issued a list of corrections that will feature in the updated version. Among these errors, Mandela inaccurately wrote that his ex-wife Madikizela-Mandela was the fifth of eleven children, but she was in fact the sixth-born.

Mandela further wrote that his ex-wife was pregnant at the time of pass law protests in 1957, but “she only became pregnant in 1958”.

Long Walk contains incorrect spellings of various names, including that of Mandela’s Rivonia Trial co-accused Denis Goldberg.

Quotations from Mandela’s famous ‘Prepared to Die’ courtroom speech are also corrected, particularly indicating in the updated version where parts of it had been omitted.

The original version states that Mandela was on Robben Island in 1962. But records show he was there from May 27, 1963. He was also moved between cells in the island prison, but there remains uncertainty about which cells he was imprisoned in.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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