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Commemorating Nelson Mandela; Mandela's Legacy; Rugby Captain Reflects on Mandela; Mandela's Life on the Big Screen; Confronting the Past and Moving Forward; Imagine a World

Aired December 10, 2013 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Johannesburg, reporting on today's memorial to Nelson Mandela, where the largest collection of world leaders in recent memory and South Africans of all stripes, including the two women that Mandela loved best, his widow and his ex-wife, united in a portrait of grief, gathered at a soccer stadium near Soweto in the torrential rain to bid farewell.

It is the stadium where Mandela held his first rally after being freed from prison. And of course that was the first time people had heard him in more than 27 years.


NELSON MANDELA, FORMER PRESIDENT, SOUTH AFRICA: I have not the slightest doubt that we would reach the goal of liberating the black people of this country within our lifetime.


AMANPOUR: It's the same stadium where he made his last official public appearance, taking center stage at the 2010 World Cup championship match.

The crowd on this day enthusiastically greeted the U.S. president, Barack Obama, as he offered a heartfelt eulogy to a personal hero.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a word in South Africa, ubuntu, a word that captures Mandela's greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye.


AMANPOUR: And in the Mandela spirit, political adversaries like the Clintons and the Bushes crossed lines of party and ideology to celebrate his memory together.

President Obama even shook the hand of the Cuban president, Raul Castro.

And then at the end of the ceremony, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, himself a Nobel laureate for his role in helping to end apartheid, perhaps said it best.


DESMOND TUTU, ARCHBISHOP: We promise God we're going to follow the example of Nelson Mandela.



AMANPOUR: Now among those leaders following Mandela's example of reconciliation today were four British prime ministers, past and present, who attended the ceremony together, Labour's Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and Conservatives John Major and David Cameron.

I caught up with Prime Minister Cameron as he was about to take his seat for the service.


AMANPOUR: What does it mean to you to be here, first of all.

DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER, GREAT BRITAIN: It means a lot, because it's really to say goodbye to an extraordinary man and to commemorate someone who did so much, not just for South Africa, but also for the world in terms of the inspiration that he gave.

Most of all, I think, the fact he was able to forgive those that had done so much wrong to him, he set an example to leaders and to politicians, to his people and to the world, that really doesn't have a parallel.

AMANPOUR: The Queen, Queen Elizabeth, was very saddened by his passing. And he had several visits to Buckingham Palace and they got on, it seemed, very well. But obviously he had a difficult relationship with Britain during the anti-apartheid time. Margaret Thatcher was not pro the sanctions.

Tell me the evolution of the relationship between South Africa and Britain on this regard.

CAMERON: He's always said he had this amazing relationship with the Queen. And indeed, I think he's the only person who can get away with calling her Elizabeth. So the story --



CAMERON: That is what I'm told.

Britain has very close ties and very close history with South Africa. I think everyone in Britain opposed the apartheid regime; Margaret Thatcher opposed the apartheid regime and indeed called for Mandela to be released. But there was an argument about sanctions back in the 1980s.

And as I've written about this in the past, not sure that the Conservative Party took the right calls. But I think everyone will say apartheid had to change; it had to go. And we needed a multiracial democratic South Africa. I think what no one quite believed was that it would come about as peacefully as it did. And that really was down to Mandela. We shouldn't also forget what F.W. de Klerk did, the fact that he made some very brave moves. But really, the struggle of Mandela, but followed by the grace and forgiveness of Mandela, is what gave this country an extraordinary chance to be, I think, one of the success stories of the 21st century.

AMANPOUR: And what do you think now in the post-Mandela era -- obviously so much of Africa has gone democratic since he was released, but people are very concerned about the ANC, the corruption, the income inequality. You know, South Africa's economic stance right now, where do you think the hope for the future lies, including (INAUDIBLE)?

CAMERON: Well, there's obviously a lot of work to be done. But I'm an optimist. If I look across Africa, you can see some democratic success stories now. You can see some economic success stories. And South Africa has the opportunity to be the economy that's the engine of southern Africa. And I think if they follow the example of Mandela -- and remember, in politics, it matters a lot what your recent history, what your institutions are, what examples you choose to live up to.

Now all the people here have got the most amazing icon for their future politicians to try and live up to. Now, whether they will or not is a matter for them. But it does matter. It's rather like in British politics, when you have massive figures like Winston Churchill that have sat in the chair that you now sit in, it doesn't mean, sadly, that you're automatically like them, but it does mean that you've got heroes to try and live up to. The people of South Africa -- indeed, all of Africa, in Mandela, have an immense icon who, I think, will be looking down at them in the future and they'll be looking up to him and hopefully emulating and treasuring his memory.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, thank you on this day. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: David Cameron, talking about big shoes to follow, even for himself.

And he also took the opportunity to take his own snaps of the event. He's seen here with President Obama and the Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, their own memory of this historic day.

Twenty years ago today, Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor that he shared with South Africa's president, F. W. de Klerk, who also attended today's memorial. Back in 1993, apartheid had yet to be completely dismantled, and there were still violent protests.

Many of Mandela's closest associates at the time urged him to decline the award instead of sharing it with the man who had helped keep him in prison for more than 27 years. But of course the same man who later granted Mandela's unconditional release.

Mandela himself insisted on accepting that shared award. And spoke of, quote, "the common humanity that bonds both black and white into one human race."

And after a break, the head of the Nelson Mandela Foundation joins us. That's when we come back.



AMANPOUR: The other focal point for public memorial has been Mandela's home here in Johannesburg, where crowds have been gathering since the day he died there to lay flowers. And today, despite the weather, they have still been coming.

Khehla Shabane is the former head of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and he was there all days and he joins me now here in the studio.

Thank you for joining me. Tell me something, did today's memorial do justice to the man?

Were you pleased with what you saw today?

KHEHLA SHABANE, FORMER CEO, NELSON MANDELA FOUNDATION: I was, yes. It showed Mandela's different personas, world leaders were there; the (INAUDIBLE) was there. And the folks who supported, young people who supported the struggles of the country were there.

And those were Mandela's personas, in a way, and to that extent I think it did represent who the man was.

AMANPOUR: What do you think the central message of today had to be? Was it just a celebration of his life? Or you mention all these different constituencies.

Was it a message for the future as well?

SHABANE: I think it was a celebration of his life and there were people who were there to mourn his passing. And there were a number of people -- I have in mind Bishop Tutu, for example, who spoke about the future and how important it was that we work hard to produce a South Africa that Mr. Mandela was trying to (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: And actually, he said, to an incredibly energetic crowd and to an incredibly energetic way, he said, listen, we have to follow the example. We have to promise to follow his example.

How hard is that going to be as South Africa moves on? Obviously, he's been out of politics. But there are quite a lot of concerns about the current political leadership.

SHABANE: Yes, yes, and that's a fair criticism. I do think South Africa still needs to work extremely hard, perhaps harder than Mr. Mandela did, at producing the sort of outcomes that are necessary. We do have people in the country who are frustrated, who are concerned, who feel marginalized and so forth and so on.

So those people are going to have to be spoken to with a view of getting them into the tent, as it were. But fundamental to the task at hand is fixing the economy so that it begins to accommodate people in a manner that is meaningful.

AMANPOUR: And you say, facing the economy and also obviously the massive and growing income inequality gap here, but also the issue of corruption. I mean, it may seem sort of rather cold to say this today. But you know, when President Zuma came up to speak and when he was in public there, we saw lots of people in the stadium doing the, you know, the football substitution symbol, in other words, it's time for you, sir, to pack it in.

Is he a disappointment?

SHABANE: His performance has been less than many people expected in South Africa. And the guy has had to face a very difficult economic environment. But questions of corruptions are real and those have to be fixed. It's not just perceptions. There are things that have happened in South Africa that are not acceptable.

And as president, Mr. Zuma is going to have to play a role in leading us out of the ditch.

AMANPOUR: Just to go for a moment to the house nearby here where you have been for many days, and as the former head of the Mandela Foundation, what have you noticed from the people who've been coming there in this pilgrimage for the last several days?

SHABANE: Mr. Mandela was great at making a range of people think that he's their friend. Mr. Mandela made everybody so important that (INAUDIBLE) perception that people thought they could just pick up a phone and phone him. And those people are the people who are now coming to his house and paying homage to him, celebrating his life.

And I think it was good that that happened. And by the way, part of the crowd that was in the stadium, views are beginning to suggest that were EFF people, now I don't know --


SHABANE: What's (INAUDIBLE) outfit called?

AMANPOUR: Oh, you mean the --


SHABANE: New political (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: -- oh, the new young -- or rather the hotheaded young radical (INAUDIBLE), who was thrown out of the ANC.

SHABANE: Right. I don't know if that is true; I still want to take another look at those pictures to see if that is true.

AMANPOUR: Why would that be significant?

SHABANE: It would be significant because people are arguing that those people were there to embarrass Mr. Zuma ahead of elections next year. But that's a view that's been put on the table. I still need to take another look at those -- at the footage to see if that is correct.

But if they were at the stadium, that would be significant because they, too, would feel that they have a contribution to make in celebrating or mourning Mr. Mandela.

AMANPOUR: Now obviously since the end of the white apartheid regime, we have just had ANC as the biggest, most dominant party. There are others trying here. But do you see the possibility of real political competition? They have other parties that can be equally viable in a future South Africa.

SHABANE: It will take a bit of time. But in the next election, I expect it's too early to predict yet. But I do expect that the ANC support level at about 65 or so percent with the eroded a bit. That erosion won't cause the ANC to be out of office. But this is a beginning of a long process which, in about 3-4 elections ahead of us, could see greater competition than we have now.

AMANPOUR: And if you were to say your view, the Mandela view, the hope for the next 5-10 years, what would South Africa look like?

SHABANE: I would hope that we have a South Africa that economically is in a better shape than it is now, is able to provide for a majority of people in South Africa and is able to play a better role in leading at least the region in southern Africa, lead it into a more stable region, (INAUDIBLE) region that's capable of feeding itself, at the very least.

AMANPOUR: Khehla Shabane, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

SHABANE: You're welcome.

AMANPOUR: Thanks so much.

And also on this day, South Africa celebrates the anniversary of its post-apartheid constitution, which has guaranteed, as we've been talking about, four, soon to be five free and fair elections and three peaceful transfers of power from one president to another.

Seventeen years ago today, then-President Nelson Mandela signed into law that constitution with this inspiring preamble, quote, " We, the people of South Africa, recognize the injustices of our past; honor those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity."

But a year earlier, it was a sporting event made famous in the film, "Invictus," that put those words really into practice. And we'll meet the captain of the all-white Springbok rugby team and the event that united the Rainbow Nation back then. That's when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program from Johannesburg tonight.

Now one of the VIP guests at the memorial service earlier today was South Africa's former rugby captain, Francois Pienaar. It was what Mandela did at the 1995 World Cup here that had the whole country eating out of his hand, striding into the stadium full of white supporters of the white man's game, this black president was wearing the team jersey.

Through this sporting gesture, he made clear that he was president for all South Africans. The 2009 movie about this, "Invictus," starred Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as Pienaar.


AMANPOUR: The Springboks did win and Mandela went onto forge a strong friendship with Pienaar. I spoke to him, along with my colleague, Anderson Cooper, as the memorial service was about to get underway in that loud Johannesburg stadium.


AMANPOUR: We thank you for being with us on this day.


AMANPOUR: And you're wearing the famous Springbok jacket, which used to be such a symbol of you, of the whites, of oppression in this country. And yet this is what turned this country around.

PIENAAR: Yes, I actually (INAUDIBLE) what should I wear. And they said, (INAUDIBLE), you've got to wear this, because the (INAUDIBLE) Mandela. This emblem could not have survived because of what you just said. And the use of apartheid rugby was a hated sport.

And Mr. Mandela, when he came out of prison, against the wishes of the ANC, (INAUDIBLE) said to them, "These are our boys. They're playing for us. We have to embrace them."

And it was very difficult for the ANC to give that. Fortunately, it prevailed, because what happened in our country in 1995, you cannot describe in words. I don't expect this. (INAUDIBLE). But the weeks and the months and the years later, it was such a healing moment for our country and the sport (INAUDIBLE). And (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: And of course, he was wearing your jersey with the number 6 on it.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: So he didn't tell you in advance that he was going to wear your jersey?

PIENAAR: (INAUDIBLE). And the emotions going through you as a captain, you're focused on the (INAUDIBLE) and making sure that your guys (INAUDIBLE).


PIENAAR: What Mr. Mandela said to me there, I wanted to hug him. He said to me, "Francois, thank you very much for what you've done for this country." I couldn't believe it. And I said to him, "Mr. Mandela, thank you for what you've done for this country."


COOPER: And when you saw him in your jersey, what did you think?

PIENAAR: I (INAUDIBLE). I was (INAUDIBLE) coming to the (INAUDIBLE). And he walked in and he had (INAUDIBLE). Unbelievable. (INAUDIBLE) emotional. And then (INAUDIBLE) number on his back. So (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: And then you won. And he handed you the trophy. And then you became a friend and your kids were his godchildren.

PIENAAR: Yes. That to me is (INAUDIBLE) about Mr. Mandela. Obviously the sporting moment was very special. But when (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE) the phone rang and it was (INAUDIBLE) was Madiba, not anybody but him. And he wished us, well, he spoke to my wife at length. And then he said he wanted to be his godfather. And he gave him (INAUDIBLE).

Now when the news broke that (INAUDIBLE) Mr. Mandela's passed, it was late at night. I just (INAUDIBLE) my hotel and I just switched off my phone and watched television all night, watched what you guys (INAUDIBLE), Mr. Mandela and all the (INAUDIBLE) around the world. And I became very, very emotional. (INAUDIBLE) that special bond (ph).

AMANPOUR: Well, we appreciate you being here, Francois Pienaar. You played an amazing role in this reconciliation. Thanks for joining us.


AMANPOUR: And while the world says goodbye to an icon, the Mandela family bids farewell to a father, a grandfather and great-grandfather. Here one of those great-grandchildren quotes from a favorite poem.


PHUMLA MANDELA, GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER: You are lodged in our memory. You tower over the world like a comet, leaving streaks of light for us to follow. We salute you.


AMANPOUR: Mandela often had to choose between his family and his country. And that personal conflict lies at the heart of the new film that chronicles his life, "Long Walk to Freedom." And after a break, I'll ask Idris Elba, the actor who walks in Mandela's long shadow, how do you turn a myth into a man?




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, reporting live from Johannesburg, South Africa, after a momentous day here. Leaders from every corner of the globe gathered with South Africans earlier today in a football stadium to remember and to celebrate the life and also Nelson Mandela himself.

President Obama even shook the hand of the Cuban president, Raul Castro. He was then greeted with thunderous applause, America's first black president, Barack Obama, was honoring South Africa's first black president and his personal hero.

While Obama praised Mandela, he also chided some of the leaders who had come and those who had stayed away who had failed to live up to Mandela's example.


OBAMA: There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial reconciliation but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.

There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.

And there are too many of us, too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.


AMANPOUR: There were somber moments, but there were also moments of joy. South Africans from every walk of life were singing and dancing together, expressing gratitude for the man who forever changed their nation.

Mandela's life has been the subject of many books and films, as we've seen already, including "Long Walk to Freedom." That autobiography, which has now been brought to life on the big screen.

AMANPOUR: The terrible memories of the brutality of apartheid, this biopic of Mandela's life took over a decade to make. And the scene that we just watched portrays the 1960 Sharpeville massacre that killed 69 peaceful protesters. And that incident sparked international condemnation and galvanized Nelson Mandela's fight for freedom.

The film broke box office records here in South Africa, and it had its premiere in London last week, the very night that Mandela died. Because of the long arc of Mandela's life, this film focused on telling his story through his family, including his painful breakup from his wife, Winnie, after he was freed.


AMANPOUR: Painful moments, and Idris Elba, the British actor who portrayed Mandela, emerged from the film premiere understandably emotional.

Earlier today, I spoke to Elba and Anant Singh, who's the film's producer. He had just come from the memorial and Elba joined me from New York.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to you, Anant Singh, producer of "Long Walk to Freedom," and also to Idris Elba from New York, thank you for joining me.

You know, I want to start by asking you both rather a painful question, because incredibly the announcement of Mr. Mandela's death came during the London premiere of the film.

What was it like, Idris, to have to announce to the audience, to the world and to be there at that moment?

IDRIS ELBA, ACTOR, PRODUCER, SINGER, RAPPER AND DJ: If I'm honest, you know, Christiane, it was very, very awful. It was an awful feeling. The audience, a lot of the audience were aware because some people had their cell phones.

But there was a large majority of the audience that had no clue. And they were literally just enjoying the last moments of the film, the credits were rolling. It's an emotional film and then, you know, Anant and I and Justin came onto the stage.

And Anant read out Zuma's statement. And there was an audible gasp in the room. It was an incredible moment, you know. There was a celebratory feeling because of the film, but then this sort of sad news that just sort of underlined that. It was a very bittersweet moment.

AMANPOUR: You must have been rather nervous taking on the role of this man, particularly since an actor like Morgan Freeman had played him in "Invictus," or Sidney Poitier had played him.

Did that weigh heavily on you? Did you have those actors on your shoulder as you were playing Mandela?

ELBA: I purposefully didn't watch either of those films. I haven't seen "Invictus" and not on purpose. But in terms of that, when I was preparing for this role, I chose not to watch those performances, only because I wanted to really make an individual effort to make an interpretation, my own interpretation of Mandela.

It's a big ask for the audience to watch myself play Mandela. I don't look anything like Mandela; I'm considerably younger than the older Mandela. So the audience have to really take a leap of faith with me.

So it's important that I didn't do an impersonation of any actor or Mandela himself, but sort of an interpretation. And of course I was nervous, yes, because he's such a revered man and so many people have an opinion on how Mr. Mandela should be portrayed.

But thanks to Justin and Anant, we decided that this is the route we were going to take; we weren't going to do the lookalike version of Mandela. We were going to allow the audience to really step into the story.

But I really wanted the audience to be paid off by paying attention to his voice, the way he walks, certain characteristics that really sort of embody his presence.

AMANPOUR: Let me turn to you, Anant, because you've obviously been working on this. This has really been a labor of love for you for so, so long.

You had to deal with the arc of Mandela's long life. Other films have focused just on one thing, like "Invictus," for instance, on that one rugby World Cup.

How did you distill, how did you and the director distill how you were going to portray this?

ANANT SINGH, SOUTH AFRICAN FILM PRODUCER: Well, that was the biggest challenge and that's why it's taken so long, that my journey began with him, writing to him in prison, to make a movie of his story.

But I think he's got such a big life and such an epic life that to try and cut that canvas into a 2:20 film was a huge challenge and a huge responsibility as a South African, because I felt if you're doing "Long Walk to Freedom" justice, you have to tell the full story.

So it starts as a young child and ends as the president. And that was the big task. And I think when Justin came on board with Bill Nicholson, the writer, we were able to craft a story which was the love story, that being the thread.

AMANPOUR: The love story between him and Winnie?

SINGH: Yes, correct. But you know, we deal with the first marriage or so and that failing, and then but the bulk of the film is that romance with Winnie, and which is a very tragic romance and very powerful at the same time. And it gives you the canvas in which to paint the whole of the liberation movement.

AMANPOUR: And you were determined, both you and -- I'm going to ask both of you this -- to do Mandela, warts and all. Obviously, he's always been sanctified. Now in his death, he's even more of a hero and a saint to so many people.

But you were determined not to go that route.

Is that correct?

SINGH: You know, I've spent a lot of time with him, as you know, over the years, and he had said to me, "I have weaknesses and I have strengths. I am like an Everyman. Show me for my strengths and weaknesses."

AMANPOUR: And, Idris, what was that like for you to just focus on really the family, not just Winnie, but the daughters and the whole -- you know, they felt quite bitter, didn't they, that he had left them and devoted himself to the cause.

ELBA: In order to understand who Mandela became, like you say, the man that's sanctified, that we all love, the silver-haired, the fist- pumping Mandela, in order to understand who that is, it's important that we understand what he sacrificed. And his family is part of that, outside of just his freedom.

And yes, it's a big -- it's risky for us as filmmakers to have taken that route. But as Anant said, he is a human being. And I think you have more respect for him if you understand the journey he's taken to the great man that we know and love.

AMANPOUR: And I think also in the film, you dealt with the idea of the armed struggle and the idea of was this terrorism, wasn't it? Obviously he was accused by people at that time.

And how he foreswore violence. Tell me why that was an important issue to tackle in this film.

ELBA: There's a speech in the film where Mandela says, this was not an easy decision to come to, to go to the armed struggle was not an easy decision.

But I think the audiences need to understand and be educated as to why Mandela had to take that route. And also the ANC were quite split at that moment, Umkhonto we Sizwe was the military arm of the ANC. The ANC as a whole were quite split on the decision to go to the arms route.

And for the -- in the film, we want to educate the audience on that moment in time. There are scenes, actually, that we shot that aren't in the film, that highlight the split between Mandela in the end, see a little bit more. But Anant will tell you, they didn't make the cut of the film.

SINGH: Well, the other thing is that when the ANC took up the armed struggle, it -- they didn't -- they made a specific concerted effort not to attack people. It was government buildings; pylons, electricity, all these kind of things, as a statement initially, because everything else had failed.

AMANPOUR: And so much had changed since Mandela was in Soweto, since the early days of his life.

How was it to actually try to recreate Soweto, which is -- looks completely different than when Mandela was living there?

SINGH: Absolutely. One of the big challenges and as a South African -- and this is a South African film, fully financed out of here, and we felt we had to do all of these things right. We rebuilt Soweto. And --


AMANPOUR: Somewhere else?

SINGH: -- in Cape Town, actually. But -- and it's still there --

AMANPOUR: (INAUDIBLE) Soweto, the terrible shanty town, now looks a lot better than it did?

SINGH: I don't know about that, but you can judge.

But we rebuilt the Robben Island prison because the logistics of doing all of that. But the authenticity of the detail, whether it's the wardrobe, 10,000 extras with 1940s clothing, hats, all of these things -- we spent -- 10 different production designers spent 10 years just working on all of this.

So that authenticity has given me so much reaction; even today at the venue, people were coming up to me and talking about that.

AMANPOUR: And finally, Idris, what do you hope the film will do? What do you want to achieve with this film?

ELBA: Well, outside of just maintaining the man's legacy and his ideals, outside of just that, there's a message there about inspiration, especially for younger audiences. Mandela was just one man and it was about his inspiration, his ambition that sort of led a movement.

Now he didn't do it alone. But I think I really want young audiences -- my daughter is 11. I'd love her to see this film and understand that every individual can make an effort and can force change.

Even the smallest amount of inspiration can force some sort of change and that's what I would like audiences to go to take away, outside of keeping the man's legacy alive, you know?

AMANPOUR: Idris Elba, Anant Singh, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

SINGH: Thanks, Christiane.

ELBA: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: A decade in the making and, of course, the Justin both men refer to is Justin Chadwick, the director of "Long Walk to Freedom."

Now in his address to the memorial, President Obama made specific reference to Mandela's time in jail and his ability to forgive his captors.


OBAMA: It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner but the jailer as well.


AMANPOUR: But it wasn't an easy process. It took a truth and reconciliation commission to heal many of the wounds. And we'll speak to an influential member of that very commission next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa, after a day of remembering Nelson Mandela. His death has forced the country to reflect on its own ugly past and what it took to move beyond it. As Ghana's president told me, Mandela taught everyone on the African continent how to heal.

Paul van Zyl was instrumental in South Africa's healing process. He was the secretary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and he joins me now to talk about it from New York.

Paul, thank you very much and welcome back to this program.

I want to start by asking you what did you even go into when it was time to deal with accountability?

Did you all just decide there was no way we could have criminal trials or anything like that?

Why this process?

PAUL VAN ZYL, FORMER SECRETARY, TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION: Well, I think the way that South Africa dealt with the past was inextricably linked to the nature of our transition. We didn't have the vanquishments of the Germans after World War II. We had a negotiated settlement. And that settlement meant that there would have to be a process of both compromise and accommodation. And I think what somebody like Nelson Mandela wisely appreciated was that there's only so much dealing with the past that the country could deal with, that it would be impossible to escape the past and it would be unwise to sweep it under the carpet.

But the full press of a Nuremberg trial approach to prosecuting and punishing people was not just impossible, given the nature of the transition, but might begin to jeopardize the very delicate process of healing a nation and bringing it closer together.

AMANPOUR: Twenty years on or so, do you ever hear from people who say, gosh, OK; that was nice, it was great. We did a fantastic thing back then, but really and truly we haven't had justice for all the terrible things that happened to us or not?

VAN ZYL: Well, it's perfectly understandable. If you place yourself in the shoes of a person whose loved ones have been murdered or disappeared, or somebody who's been a victim of a terrible act of torture, I think there's an inextricable sense amongst all of us that the just thing to do would be to hold somebody accountable.

And so I think no one should ever be in a position where you judge a person who insists upon justice. That is indeed the kind of natural response.

That being said, both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu realized that a particular kind of justice was called for at our moments of transition and try to blend together an approach which gave victims a chance to tell their stories, to have their suffering officially acknowledged, to have reparation awarded to victims and at the same time to give perpetrators to come forward and acknowledge their misdeeds.

So it wasn't just a blanket amnesty or a form of amnesia. It was a process which required perpetrators to disclose what they did. And although that was not perfect justice, I think under the circumstances it was probably the most justice that the country at that point could endure and could confront.

AMANPOUR: And the images from those years were just incredible, the tears, the anguish that you saw on people's faces, both the perpetrators and the victims, really was an incredible thing to witness.

Tell me some of what you experienced inside those commissions, when you were listening to what was being said?

VAN ZYL: Well, firstly, it was -- I like to think of the commission as a sort of a pressure cooker, a pressure valve, a safety valve and a moment in our country where you couldn't turn away. You couldn't sweep the past under a carpet. You had to give people a chance to tell their stories.

And I think that as people began to tell their stories, the country began to be confronted with the true horrors of apartheid. I think many white South Africans thought that apartheid was a sort of benevolent endeavor, separate but equal, trying to do good for people by keeping them apart.

And that was the terrible lie and the terrible myth that they told themselves. And then when you being to hear stories about women and mothers whose children were abducted from hospital beds in the middle of the night; they were poisoned, they were killed, their bodies were burnt down into ashes and thrown into rivers, and the pain that those mothers confronted, knowing that their children would never come back and that every time a telephone rang or there were footsteps in the corridor, they hoped that it would be their son returning. But they knew in their heart of hearts that he never would, the terrible pain of a loved one experiencing a disappearance in that way.

Once you have an opportunity to hear those stories, you realize that apartheid was not a well-intended social experiment. It was a profoundly evil system at its core. And in a way, when you think about Nelson Mandela's life and his legacy, the fact that give that abhorrent nature of that system ,that he could emerge as a figure with such grace, such dignity, an ability to draw a nation closer together rather than rend it further asunder, is all the more remarkable.

AMANPOUR: And tell me what it was like growing up white in South Africa?

VAN ZYL: Well, you know, I had the great fortune of growing up in a home where my parents told me that we lived in a country that was profoundly evil. And I think that there, by the grace of God, many, many, many white South Africans -- and I could have equality been amongst them -- could have grown up with a completely different narrative.

So it was always strange, because white South Africans led a life of great privilege. But I think it was sort of expected at an early age that we would actively take part in the anti-apartheid movement. And going to university at that time and encountering black students who were, at that point, in the liberation movement and seeing their both incredible courage, but also the life circumstances that they came from, the squalor and the poverty and the unequal education and to see them notwithstanding those circumstances rise up with such courage to both confront an evil system and then thankfully, in my lifetime, to see many of those people have the ability to move into government, to serve, to take part in what would be what you would expect in other society, the most talented people get to serve in government and contribute to their nation was a great source of optimism. It's not often in your lifetime that you get to see oppression and then liberation, in such short order.

AMANPOUR: Paul van Zyl, that's a great thought to say goodbye on. Thank you very much indeed for joining us with your important contribution and reflections. And it is, actually, incredible to remember that today, on this memorial day, also the 20th anniversary of the shared Nobel Peace Prize, to Nelson Mandela, of course, but the last white president, F. W. de Klerk, who knew that it was time to bring freedom and to stop the oppression of the majority in that country.

Today's memorial, of course, was supposed to be a celebration rather than a wake, but some in the stadium took that exhortation slightly too literally to the extent that Cyril Ramaphosa, who's the deputy president of the ANC, had to interrupt a head of state, the Indian president, Pranab Mookherjee, no less, to tell one particular band to pipe down.


CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, DEPUTY PRESIDENT, ANC: There's a band up there, that band, I know that you are very enthusiastic. I want to you to play your music a little later when I call upon you to play. Please put your instruments down now.


AMANPOUR: Well, then the Indian president went on and delivered his speech. And after a break, we will be taking up our instruments again in celebration of Nelson Mandela's life to music.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, the captains and the kings depart and the fine words and noble gestures of this memorable day may soon pass away. Now imagine a world to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, where one thing will not pass away, and that is the life of Nelson Mandela, a life well lived, not just for one, but for all of humanity.

In that spirit, we leave you with a joyful noise to carry South Africa's greatest son on his final journey.




And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.