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Charlene Smith’s Mandela Book Hits Shelves – Again

By Andile Ndlovu for The Times:

MandelaIt appears one can never have enough of former president Nelson Mandela, not even Charlene Smith, who had written a biography on him over a dozen years ago.

After two more new film projects were unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival last week, this South African-born author, who resides in the US, is re-releasing Mandela: In Celebration of a Great Life on 1 June in both countries.

After releasing the 172-page (and 128 pictures) authorised biography on the 93-year-old, Smith said on her website that she would be giving Americans a talk in Maryland on Madiba’s relationship with their country.

The talk would be held on July 15 – a mere three days before Madiba celebrates his 94th birthday in his homestead of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

The book, which will be published via Random House Struik, covers Mandela’s early years, student days, incarceration, years as a statesman and life since retirement, according to a synopsis. It will also come with interviews with “friends and fellow leaders”.

Some of the pictures include one of the mass funeral for the 69 victims of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, one of Madiba burning his ID book in protest of the Sharpeville shootings, and a powerful one of children in Phola Park, near Thokoza on the East Rand, throwing rocks beside a fire during pre-election violence in 1994.

In the chapter titled “A Clash of Values”, Smith writes: “Courts failed to operate properly, and criminal activity, thus obscured, thrived. This would create the deepest wounds within the future democratic state.

“Faction fighting, a centuries-old scourge that saw African clans pit themselves against each other, often for decades-old grievances, was allowed to flourish and develop new forms under the haze of violence.”

During a speech to the ANC conference in December 1997, drafted by his then deputy Thabo Mbeki, Mandela attacked the press and international donors for failing to deliver on their promises.

He also criticised white people for failing to reform.

The speech did not sit too well with many listeners, but in the book Smith quotes one party insider who said: “Mandela was not happy with the speech, although he agreed with some of its content. But he also knew that if Mbeki delivered the speech, it would cause the country grave damage, but because of Mandela’s stature the speech could be carried off.”

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