Chris Matthews Remembers Nelson Mandela

I was there when the people of South Africa first got to vote.  Along with the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is one of my all-time great experiences as a journalist.

“Who said we don’t care?  Who said we’re not politically sophisticated?”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was looking at the biblical length of South Africans waiting in line to vote that Wednesday morning.  He was saluting what his ally, Nelson Mandela, had done to lead his country into democracy. 

This sight, of millions of people—black, white, mixed race and Asian—all voting peaceably is something few South Africans thought would ever happen.  The historic picture they had expected to see was a final, bloody battle between the diehard defenders of apartheid and the black masses. 

Instead, it had come to this: a peaceful election with all the people of South Africa standing in the same lines waiting to vote.

It was not only the black majority that was hoping for the historic moment of change. “This is the day I’ve been waiting for all my life,” a young white woman told me as she stood in a long line of voters that morning in April 1994. 

It was all happening this way—the democratic way—because of one man, Nelson Mandela.  

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