Return to Transcripts main page


Commemorating Nelson Mandela; Rugby Captain Reflects on Mandela; Mandela's Life on the Big Screen; Imagine a World

Aired December 13, 2013 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the special weekend edition of our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Johannesburg, where we have focused all week on the celebration of Nelson Mandela's life, here and around the world.

It fades now into a solemn goodbye for the former president. He's on the last steps of his long walk home to Qunu, which will be his final resting place, where Nelson Mandela, son of a chief of the Thembu people, was born in 1918.

It was here, though, in Johannesburg, that the largest collection of world leaders in modern times and South Africans of all stripes and the two women he loved best, his widow and his ex-wife, united as portraits in grief, gathered at a soccer stadium near Soweto in the torrential rain to bid farewell.

That was the same stadium that Mandela held his first rally after being freed from prison. And it 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 will reach the goal of liberating the black people of this country within our lifetime.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): It was also the stadium where he made his last official public appearance, taking center stage at the 2010 World Cup championship match.

At Mandela's memorial, the crowd enthusiastically greeted the U.S. president, Barack Obama, as he offered a heartfelt eulogy to a giant of history and 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 of reconciliation, political adversaries like the Clintons and the Bushes crossed lines of party and ideology to celebrate his memory together.

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

And then at the end of the ceremony, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, himself a Nobel laureate, said it best.


DESMOND TUTU, ARCHBISHOP EMERITUS: We promise God that we are going to follow the example of Nelson Mandela.



AMANPOUR: Amongst those following Mandela's example of reconciliation were four British prime ministers from different parties. I caught up with the current prime minister, David Cameron, just before he took his seat for the memorial 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: It'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: And also this week, South Africa celebrates the anniversary of its post-apartheid constitution, which has guaranteed four, soon to be five free and fair elections. Seventeen years ago this month, then President Nelson Mandela signed that constitution into law with this inspiring preamble:

"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 into practice. And we'll meet the captain of the all-white Springbok rugby team and the event that united the Rainbow Nation when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program from Johannesburg, where we have spent most of this week on the remembrances, the tributes and the celebration of Nelson Mandela.

One of the VIP guests at Tuesday's memorial service 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 this 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. And the 2009 movie about this, "Invictus," starred Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as Pienaar.


AMANPOUR: The Springboks did win and Mandela went on to forge a strong friendship with Pienaar. And I spoke to him, along with my colleague, Anderson Cooper, as the memorial service was about to get underway in a very loud and noisy Johannesburg soccer 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 hateful (ph) sport.

And Mr. Mandela, when he came out of prison, against the wishes of the ANC, actually 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) playing in the biggest match you're ever going to play in, in your whole life. 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 he walked out, and my number was 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 why I'm emotional about Mr. Mandela. Obviously the sporting moment was very special. But when (INAUDIBLE) we were in London. (INAUDIBLE) John was born. And the phone rang and it was the small hours of the morning, and it 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: Mandela's life has been the subject of many books and films, including "Long Walk to Freedom." That autobiography, which has now been brought to life on the big screen.


AMANPOUR: The scene we just watched portrays the 1960 Sharpeville massacre that killed 69 peaceful protesters. And that incident sparked international outrage and galvanized Nelson Mandela's fight for freedom.

The film broke box office records when it was released here in South Africa, and it had its premiere in London last week, on the very night that Mandela died. And 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 from jail.


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

I spoke to him, and to Anant Singh, the film's producer. Singh 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: 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.

AMANPOUR: And you were determined, both of 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.

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.

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 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: Tuesday's memorial 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, 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, after the break, we will be taking up our instruments again in a celebration of Nelson Mandela's life to music.




AMANPOUR: And finally, the captains and the kings depart and the fine words and noble gestures of this memorable week 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 to his final journey.