Nelson Mandela

slice of life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2006, 12:00am

Nelson Mandela, South Africa's black nationalist leader, walked out of Victor Verster prison a free man, opening a new chapter in the country's political history and ending a 27-year confinement for advocating the violent overthrow of the white minority government.

The 71-year-old was jailed in 1962 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 for sabotage.

He was driven to the prison gate in a car and then walked to freedom hand-in-hand with his wife, Winnie.

The white-haired leader of the African National Congress, looking tense but cheerful, thrust both fists victoriously into the air as he passed the wooden barrier of the prison.

He stood in front of the cheering crowd, repeatedly punching his right fist into the air.

Mandela was freed unconditionally by President Frederik de Klerk, in a bid to break South Africa's political logjam and get black and white leaders to the negotiating table.

Revered by millions of impoverished blacks as an enduring symbol of opposition against white rule, Mandela was to be a key player in attempts to negotiate a constitutional future for the country, shunned by the world for its apartheid policies.

Although most South African blacks were jubilant over Mandela's release, his African National Congress movement remained locked in bitter feuds with major black factions to its left and right.

Mandela himself was so revered that no black leader said a word about him in public.

Yet the ANC, in whose name he endured 27 years in prison, was considered a sell-out by some black militants and a power-hungry, Marxist-influenced party by some black conservatives. On the other side of the equation, many whites were deeply unhappy about the steps de Klerk took and the opposition Conservative Party was attempting to force an election to oust the government.

Meanwhile, Mandela told his fellow blacks that without discipline they would never win their freedom.

Addressing a huge crowd in Soweto, he roundly denounced 'criminal acts that have no place in our struggle'.

'You will never win the struggle unless you are properly led, unless you are orderly and unless you are disciplined,' he said.

Hong Kong's 1997 mini constitution was approved by the China-appointed Basic Law Drafting Committee at its final plenary session in Beijing, despite some opposition from the local community.

The 51 mainland local drafters voted in secret ballots.

They favoured some final amendments in the Basic Law before its tabling in, and promulgation by the Chinese National People's Congress the following month.

All 24 amendments - on such controversial subjects as the pace of democratic reform before 2007, nationality restrictions for the chief executive and legislators and an anti-subversion clause - were approved by more than two-thirds of the drafters, the majority needed for the proposed changes to be adopted.

Michael Cartland, the new director of Social Welfare, admitted social services for the elderly did not satisfy demand and pledged to look into the problem.

In his first press conference since taking over the job, he said that in light of the territory's growing elderly population, services for older people needed attention.

He acknowledged there was a significant shortfall in services for senior citizens, expected to number 986,400 by the year 2001.

He said the overall expenditure on social services should increase by 25 per cent from just under $4 billion in 1989-90 to nearly $5 billion in 1990-91.

The South Korean government decided to legalise the consumption of dog meat after a six-year ban on the traditional delicacy failed to dent its popularity.

Reports said the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry would revise the law on meat processing to allow slaughterhouses to butcher dogs and sell dog meat.

The decision came after a government ban on the consumption of dog meat apparently ended in failure as dog meat eateries and butchers continued to enjoy a booming business in back alleys.