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Congresswoman Waters Commemorates 21st Anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s Release from Prison

February 11, 2011
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) issued the following statement today, commemorating the 21st anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from Victor Verster Prison in South Africa:

"I'll never forget February 11, 1990, the day that Nelson Mandela walked out of the darkness of an unjust 27 year prison sentence, and into the light of a life with much more to accomplish for a nation on the verge of historic change.

"Truly transformational figures that have altered a nation, indeed the world, with their ideals, their determination, and their basic existence, are very rare. But Nelson captivated the world through his struggles for freedom, equality, and justice for black South Africans at a time when they were, at best, second class citizens.

"Over the years, I've had the distinct honor and privilege to know him and call him my friend: in 1990, I chaired the welcome committee for the Los Angeles stop on his eight-city U.S. tour, and helped organize a concert and rally attended by 90,000 people; the next year, I traveled to Durban to attend the first ANC conference since his release from prison; in 1994, I traveled with the official American delegation to attend the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President of the Republic of South Africa; and in 1998, I was pleased to welcome President Mandela to the United States once again, this time to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

"President Mandela is an inspiration to millions of people in South Africa and around the world, and on this anniversary we honor him and the many South Africans who put their lives on the line by confronting racism and discrimination head-on.

"Each day I leave my office, I glance at my framed copy of the 1994 South African presidential ballot. It gives me hope for the future, because it demonstrates that the repressed will persevere, that the downtrodden will stand up, and that the voiceless will be heard.

"I send my very best to President Mandela and his family on this anniversary and always."


Among her many achievements as a State Assemblywoman from 1977-1991, Waters was responsible for A.B. 134, legislation that allowed California to divest $12 billion in state pension funds tied to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. She was also Los Angeles Chair of the Free South Africa Movement.

In 2008, Waters received the Republic of South Africa's ‘Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo Silver Award', for "dedicating her life to the upliftment of the poor and her outstanding contribution to the struggle against Apartheid and the attainment of a democratic, non-racial and a non-sexist South Africa.