Cover image for Reflections in prison : voices from the South African liberation struggle
Reflections in prison : voices from the South African liberation struggle
Maharaj, Mac.
Publication Information:
Amherst : University of Massachusetts Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xvii, 253 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Cape Town, South Africa : Zebra and the Robben Island Museum, 2001, in series Robben Island memory series, no. 4.

Written by Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahemd Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, and four other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement on the eve of the 1976 Soweto Uprising.
Added Author:
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HV9850.5 .R42 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In 1976, while imprisoned on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela secretly wrote the bulk of his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. The manuscript was to be smuggled out by fellow prisoner Mac Maharaj on his release later that year. Maharaj also urged Mandela and other prominent political prisoners to write essays on South Africa's political future. These were smuggled out with Mandela's autobiography and are now published for the first time.

Written by Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, and four other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, these essays provide a rare view of their thinking at a critical point in the liberation struggle, on the eve of the 1976 Soweto Uprising. The leaders describe their philosophies, strategies, and hopes. They debate such crucial issues as violent versus nonviolent forms of struggle, diversity and unity, the ideological challenge of the Black Consciousness movement, and how to accommodate different interpretations of African nationalism.

The book begins with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a contextualizing introduction by Maharaj. Then come two essays by Mandela and one each by Sisulu, Kathrada, Mbeki, Billy Nair, John Pokela, Eddie Daniels and Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo. Each essay is preceded by a short biography of the author, a description of his life in prison, and a pencil sketch by a black South African artist.

Author Notes

Mac Maharaj's life brings together many of the strands of the struggle for democracy in South Africa. He has been an activist, a detainee, a political prisoner, an exile, an underground commander, a negotiator in the constitutional talks, and Minister of Transport in South Africa's first democratic government.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"The most urgent problem facing us is that of unity... there is a wide difference between constructive criticism that will pave the way to a consensus and mere invective that tends to harden the differences." So begins Nelson Mandela's "Clear the Obstacles and Confront the Enemy," an essay on strategies and "stumbling blocks" for the antiapartheid movement. It's one of the nine pieces in Reflections in Prison: Voices from the South African Liberation Struggle, a collection of essays, mostly about the future of the resistance movement, by South African activists written in the Robben Island prison. The book is edited by Mac Maharaj, a founding member of the antiapartheid movement, and includes a foreword by Desmond Tutu. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

These essays by some of the most notable participants in the antiapartheid struggle in South Africa were written while their authors were in jail on Robben Island in the mid-1970s and smuggled out by editor Maharaj when he was released in 1976. Two contributions by Nelson Mandela defend multiracialism and offer a thoughtful critique of the racially exclusive Black Consciousness Movement. Neither Mandela's essays nor those by Walter Sisulu of the African National Congress (ANC), Ahmed Kathrada (active in a remarkable number of organizations), communist (and ANC member) Govan Mbeki, labor organizer Billy Nair, John Pokela of the Pan-Africanist Congress, Eddie Daniels of the Liberal Party, and activist Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo from South Africa-occupied Namibia, will surprise scholars of southern African studies. What is striking, however, is the subtlety and breadth of understanding of mid-1970s politics by prisoners who were largely denied access to radio or print news. Robben Island truly was a university. Suitable for graduate students and upper-division undergraduates; scholars of history and politics will also find much of merit. C. Higgs University of Tennessee

Table of Contents

Desmond TutuMac Maharaj
Forewordp. vii
Where Thought Remained Unprisonedp. ix
Clear the Obstacles and Confront the Enemyp. 7
Whither the Black Consciousness Movement? An Assessmentp. 21
We Shall Overcome!p. 71
Indian South Africans--A Future Bound with the Cause of the African Majorityp. 97
The Anatomy of the Problems of the National Liberation Struggle in South Africap. 131
Through the Eyes of the Workersp. 153
Towards Freedomp. 193
Let Us Work Together for Unityp. 211
Swapo leads Namibiap. 229
About the editorp. 239
About the artistsp. 243
Notesp. 247
Abbreviationsp. 251