Mandela's prison manuscript: The Nelson Mandela Foundation responds

CEO Sello Hatang says the document in question was, in fact, first posted on the web in November 2011

I am writing in response to Prof Ellis' article published in PoliticsWeb titled New light on Nelson Mandela's autobiography.

Prof Ellis makes the following claim at the beginning of his article:

"The document in question is a 627-page typescript that seems to have been placed online just a few days before Mandela's death in December 2013."

He further asserts:

 "Why the Centre of Memory decided to place such an important and even explosive text online at that juncture is unclear. The Centre made no attempt to publicize the move, for example by announcing the publication on its homepage."

In fact the manuscript was first posted on our website on 4 November 2011, with an accompanying story.

In addition, Mr Mandela's book Conversations with Myself, which was published worldwide in October 2010, contains many extracts from his "unpublished autobiographical manuscript written in prison", as does Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations, published in June 2011. We have also made it clear in our public communications that we have in our archive the recorded conversations between Mandela and Richard Stengel made during the work they did together preparing the Long Walk to Freedom manuscript for publication.  In these conversations Mandela elaborated on what was written in the prison manuscript and fills in the missing 20 years. Audio extracts from these conversations have been used in documentaries, television and radio programmes throughout the world in the last few years.

The prison manuscript also received wide coverage when it was part of our March 2012 Nelson Mandela Digital Archive launch - see for instance the following article in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

It appears that Prof Ellis: a) has concerns on how open we are to debate on the life and times of Nelson Mandela; and b) assumes that a widely publicised document has just been released simply because he has not heard about it.  I want to emphasize that we are open to dialogue, and want to invite Prof Ellis to visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation's Centre of Memory in Johannesburg where he can learn more about our work and can engage in meaningful dialogue with us.

Sello Hatang is Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

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