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Nelson Mandela: A Personal Story

To many people, Nelson Mandela is a distant hero, but for Mr Openshaw, the legacy of Nelson Mandela is much more personal.

Last Thursday flex, in the  D Block lecture hall, Mr Openshaw, the head of Video Production at TAS, shared a  personal reflection on his life in South Africa under the apartheid system, and then under the first black President.
When Nelson Mandela was jailed June 12, 1964, Mr Openshaw was only 2 years old. At that time, racism in South Africa was widespread yet unquestioned.

“I thought as a young kid that this [segregation] was totally fine. Imagine all the authority figures in your life – your parents, politicians, the priest at your church, telling you that this is the way things are and this is the way to maintain the way of life,” says Mr Openshaw. “From our point of view, Mandela was a terrorist.”

However, people not just from South Africa but around the world soon became more conscious of the situation and joined the fight for equality. By the 1980s, riots in towns were intense and the campaign to make the country ungovernable was spreading. Because of military obligations, Mr Openshaw was duty-bound to help police a township., as a reservist “I didn’t want to do, [but] I really opened my eyes and [saw that] most people just wanted to live in peace, make an honest living, and bring up their kids,” he said.  “Just like everyone else in the world.”

On February 11, 1990, Mandela was finally released from prison and South Africa was launched on a path of reconciliation. “Where we thought we would see fire and brimstone, we saw an election. People waited hours in the sun, smiling and laughing,” says Mr Openshaw. “People who had committed acts of atrocity came forward, admitted what they have done, and faced each other and asked for forgiveness.” The evils of the past began to be negotiated and things finally started to change.

When Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994, he also became a world-wide model for forgiveness and grace as he moved the country in a whole new direction. His legacy continues as, what Mr Openshaw calls him: “the young firebrand, the statesman, the elder activist.”                     
Throughout his life, Mandela was a man who was passionate to the core. “I was filming video one time and a child was crying and he [Mandela] hugged him. You always see politicians kissing babies, but this moment was genuine.” Mr Openshaw was filled with emotion as he told the TAS audience that  this was the Mandela he knew, “a man who could stoop to pay attention to a child.”

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