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1990: 'I had been waiting for this day all my life'
On 11 February 1990, leading anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in jail.

He emerged from Victor-Verster Prison in Paarl at 1614 local time and was greeted by ecstatic crowds.

His release was also welcomed by thousands of jubilant supporters elsewhere in South Africa and around the world.

Here are some of your accounts of that memorable day.

I was in the crowd of thousands on the parade in Cape Town on that day.

We were all expecting Mandela to arrive much earlier than he did. I think I waited for about five hours.

It was quite hot. Some people became restless and at one stage there was some gunfire between police and what appeared to be looters at the back of the crowd. But most people stayed calm.

There was a strong sense of quiet solidarity, with people talking to one another and occasional songs. There was a large ficus tree in the middle of the parade and many people had climbed onto it.

One of the large branches broke and people fell out of the tree, but still nobody was going to leave and lose the chance of seeing Mandela for the first time.

When he finally arrived there was huge euphoria. The sound system echoed a lot at the point where I was standing so it was a bit difficult to hear what he was saying - particularly with all the cheering, but there was a wonderful sense of history being made and the beginning of a new era.
Philip van Ryneveld, South Africa

I was on a tour of Europe in December 1989 when my mom called from South Africa. "They're releasing your friend," she said.

Two months later, we watched him walk free in Cape Town on TV in Jo'burg.

I needed to be with the crowds, the masses, not in the nervous suburbs so I drove to Hillbrow, parked my car and spent the night marching, dancing and toyi-toying with crowds of people singing freedom songs in the cops' faces.

They couldn't touch us now. We could hold up photos of Mandela without being arrested.

Eventually, a few thousand of us circled around one comrade with a megaphone.

"Well coms, we have marched a lot tonight. Where should we march now? Let's vote."

"Cape Town!" some joker shouted.

"Aha! Coms, should we march to Cape Town to welcome Mandela?"

"Yes!" the crowd shouted. "Let's march to Cape Town."

At that point I decided to go home to bed. The 1,200km trip was a little daunting. I don't know if they did indeed march to Cape Town.
Shaun Gatter, South African in New York

As a visiting engineer in Norway I happened to be attending a Norwegian language class.

We were asked by our teacher to explain our feelings about Mandela's release. However we were not permitted to use our mother tongue.

I had witnessed at first hand, as a 14 year old, the Uhuru celebrations in Nairobi when Kenya acheived Independence, so I was very excited when Mandela was released.

Trying to explain myself in Norwegian must have been the nearest I have come to experiencing drowning.
Ian Glasspell, Australia

Mandela was likened to Mahatma Gandhi here in India.

I was in high school then and we were studying the Indian slave diaspora from East Africa to the sugarcane plantations of southern Africa.

We were happy that Mandela was out and that evil way of life forced on millions of fellow human beings was coming to an end.

We immediately switched on to the TV and saw on the BBC how Mandela made his first steps out of prison - it was great.
Nelson, India

I was at school during this day pursuing my sixth form education.

I saw the streets of Cape Town filled with both blacks and whites mingling with one another
Abdul Salam Tarawalie, Sierra Leone
As soon as I heard of the news of Mr Mandela's release, I left school and went to watch the TV.

I saw the streets of Cape Town filled with both blacks and whites mingling with one another.

It was indeed a great day for the people of Africa and the world as a whole.

This was a moment that brought joy and happiness in the continent. It was a day that signified the end of the apartheid rule in South Africa.
Abdul Salam Tarawalie, Sierra Leone

I had been very active in the anti-apartheid movement and so our group naturally had an emergency meeting where we all celebrated .

Then in June 1990 Nelson Mandela came to Geneva, Switzerland where I was living at the time.

It was my 30th birthday. My best friend, Dora told me she wanted to go out with me. She surprised me with tickets to a conference where Nelson Mandela was appearing.

After the conference he made his way through the crowd and even shook my hand. It was a very moving experience - I will never forget it.
Kathleen, Czech Republic

The memory that comes to mind is when I was a boy growing up in Zimbabwe.

We sang a Hugh Masekela's song - ¿Bring back Nelson Mandela, bring him home to Soweto, I want to see him walk hand in hand with Winnie Mandela...¿

On the day of his release I was only 11 but I can still remember the emotion I felt knowing I had just witnessed history - the song I had sang had come to pass.

From that day till today I was proud to be an African.

God Bless Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela , God bless Africa. Nkosi Sikelele Africa.
Bangulanyi Ntaisi, Canada

I was five months pregnant with my first child and was off from my work that day glued to the TV set.

My husband was in New York attending school and I was down in Houston working so we spoke over the phone during all the celebrations.

I remember my baby kicking in my belly as we all cried and thanked the heavens that Mandela was leaving that horrific prison alive and breathing and not dead.

I remember feeling so connected to him, to Africa and to the struggles of our people worldwide.

I spoke to my unborn daughter and told her how important this day was and how we would always remember and celebrate it.
Emma Turner, USA

On this day I was in a hospital ward in Croydon, UK as a visiting medical student.

After having played very active roles in various anti-apartheid student organisations back in Ghana for over a decade, seeing and hearing Mr de Klerk making this announcement on TV, I was totally overcome by emotion.

I had a camera in my hand and without forethought I took a picture of the TV with De Klerk on screen.

Two years later I was in the former Transkei now part of the Eastern Cape region as a rural medical doctor, answering the call to help in the previously disadvantaged areas.

The next ten years of my life was spent in various health institutions in South Africa.

During this time I met my wife with whom I now share a home with in sunny South West USA.

Our first baby is due August and who knows he or she might bear a traditional Xhosa name just to perpetuate the memory.
Ken Apen, USA

I stood for hours on the parade in Cape Town hoping to catch a glimpse of Nelson Mandela after his historic release.

Blacks and whites mingled in close proximity in a light-hearted, jovial atmosphere.

The Parade was the most crowded I had ever seen it in 15 years.

Usually it was packed with cars parked by office workers wending their weary way to and from work, but on this day it was wall-to-wall people of every race you could imagine.

Tiring of a no-show I eventually headed home and had to push my way through the crowded adjoining streets where others rushed to grab any vacant space made available on the parade.
Andrew Malcolm, US

I was at home in Cape Town. I had been waiting for this day all of my life. My whole university life had been focused on the release of Madiba, now one year after graduation I found myself all alone at home watching the TV screen, trying to get a sense of history in the making.

Then after what felt like an eternity there he was - Nelson the hero, the David in our battle with apartheid.

A moment to reflect, a moment to pause and shed a tear of joy and happiness - a moment I never thought I would witness.
Noel Southgate, England

As he emerged the hairs stood up on the back of my neck
Cliodna O'Flynn, Irish living in Tenerife
I was staying with friends in a lovely cottage in windswept Cavan in Ireland and as we made brunch somebody turned on the small portable television.

As we realised the breaking news all thoughts of going out were forgotten, we sat around the old boiler fire watching and waiting, and as he emerged the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.

I remember thinking then that this would be similar to the day John F Kennedy was shot - though I was too young to remember - in that anyone who was watching would always remember where they were and with whom on such an important day in world history.
Cliodna O'Flynn, Irish living in Tenerife

I was in University at Lancaster, UK, at the time of Mr Mandela's release. The sight of him walking out brought tears to my eyes. He has, and will always be, a beacon of light for me.

When I now relate the day to my six-year-old son, it's very difficult to stop my tears.

He simply asks me, "Daddy why do you cry". I just tell him, I am shedding my tears out of joy. Long live Nelson Mandela.
Tariq Choudhry, Pakistan

I remember his release very clearly. It was a Sunday lunchtime and the TV news was covering the release live.

But as the expected time of release came and went the expectation grew.

It was a surprise to see this gaunt old man emerge
Gareth Kingston, England
All we knew of him was from the black and white interview in the 1960s that showed a big bruiser of a man. So it was a surprise to see this gaunt old man emerge.

I don't know what I expected really and at the time it felt like an anti climax, that his release merited a greater fanfare.

Later that evening as he spoke at Cape Town Town Hall we saw the first signs that he was an astute, hard-nosed political animal who was going to intensify pressure on the government.

In the year's to come he presided over a miracle. Time will tell if his is a permanent legacy to his country. But certainly his legacy to the world is an inspirational tale. Gareth Kingston, England

I was so stunned by, finally, the sight of Nelson Mandela himself, I can't remember celebrating his release at all.

All we had ever seen before that was a dodgy photograph. Now suddenly living and breathing was the great man himself.

I was a very young 23 at the time - a technician in the Royal Air Force at Lossiemouth in Scotland. I recall it was a Sunday.

My new wife and I were going to have dinner with some colleagues when the rumour of Mandela's release became more or less official.

My wife became very agitated, as she wanted to go, but there was not a thing on this earth that was going to stop me watching the release.

I remember it got delayed and delayed, just minutes at a time but enough to keep you hanging on.

Then finally he emerged at the gates of the prison, surrounded by guards or supporters.

He just walked right on out of there, head held high, saluting in his own inimitable fashion. The dinner was cold when we arrived and the hosts were annoyed.
David Gubbins, UK

I was 11-years-old when Mandela was released. I remember my father having told me when FW de Klerk came into power that he was a real stick-in-the-mud and nothing would change. How wrong he was!

I also remember that Mandela's triumphal emergence from Victor-Verster prison was delayed by a few hours, and I recall how much pointless sportcaster-type filling-in the poor broadcasters had to improvise!
David Meyer, US/RSA

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