Mandela's friends from prison recall political struggle, favorite moments

    7:09 AM, Jul 11, 2013   |    comments
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    SOUTH AFRICA (CNN) -- South African president Jacob Zuma is scheduled to attend a special ceremony Thursday commemorating the 50th anniversary of the police raid that led to Nelson Mandela's life sentence.

    Sharing a laugh, Ahmed Kathrada and Denis Goldberg recount memories of their friend Nelson Mandela. All three were sentenced to life in prison for their roles during the struggle against apartheid. Both recently saw the ailing icon in hospital. Denis Goldberg says, "He's a very ill man, his face is drawn." Ahmed Kathrada says, "He had a tube down his throat into his lungs so he couldn't speak but he seemed to be moving his mouth as if he were trying to answer to say something." Goldberg adds, "It's very difficult. We're going through a very, very difficult time. As expected of course, especially having known him for 67 years."

    Kathrada served time on Robben Island alongside Mandela, smuggling out hand written manuscripts which would become Mandela's autobiography, "long walk to freedom."

    Both he and Goldberg are coming together here ahead of a milestone without their close friend.

    Back in 1960 the African National Congress was banned so its members went underground. Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists hid out at Liliesleaf Farm in Johannesburg.

    They wore disguises, went by pseudonyms and planned an armed rebellion against the Apartheid government. But 50 years ago on July 11, 1963 police raided the farm, changing the course of history.

    Evidence seized during the raid would be used against Mandela, Goldberg, Kathrada and others during the famous Rivonia trial.
    These activists would use the trial to make a political statement before eight of them received life sentences. Goldberg says, "We would show that the apartheid state was inherently based on violence to maintain itself in power and had to be overturned in the name of humanity and democracy."

    It would be decades before the men saw the apartheid regime crumble. Goldberg served 22 years and Kathrada 26 before Nelson Mandela was released and became the country's first democratically elected president.

    They both fear that when Mandela, who they call 'Madiba', passes, so too will interest in the people and places that were part of the struggle. Kathrada says, "And that's why I keep saying about Madiba, it was a whole movement. He was a brilliant leader, but it was a whole movement you know. And we forget about people and we shouldn't."

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