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20,000-strong "freedom walk" to mark 20 years of Mandela's release

Other News Materials 10 February 2010 16:10 (UTC +04:00)
South Africans are adamant that no-one can fill his shoes - but around 20,000 people will walk in the footsteps of former president Nelson Mandela on Thursday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his release from prison.
20,000-strong "freedom walk" to mark 20 years of Mandela's release

South Africans are adamant that no-one can fill his shoes - but around 20,000 people will walk in the footsteps of former president Nelson Mandela on Thursday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his release from prison, DPA reported.

Two decades after Mandela walked free from Victor Verster prison near Cape Town, after 27 years behind bars for resisting apartheid rule, the world's cameras will again be trained on the prison on Thursday morning for a re-enactment of the famous walk.

Mandela's former wife, Winnie-Madikizela Mandela, who was by his side as he took his first steps to freedom on February 11, 1990, at the age of 71, will lead the crowd in a symbolic 500-metre walk towards the prison gates, Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) party confirmed.

Mandela, who is now a frail 91-year-old, will not be participating in the march but will attend the opening of parliament later on Thursday in Cape Town, where President Jacob Zuma will deliver the annual State of the Nation speech.

The opening of parliament is always a symbolic affair, full of ceremonial pomp and military displays.

Zuma has dedicated this year's address to Mandela but the solemnity of the occasion has been undermined by a presidential sex scandal.

Last week, the polygamist Zuma, who has three wives and a fiancee, was forced to apologize to the nation after it emerged he had fathered a 20th child last year, with a woman other than his four partners.

The affair, which has soured many in South Africa against the president and raised questions about his commitment to safe sex in a country in the throes of a HIV/AIDS pandemic, has seen Zuma compared unfavourably to Mandela in the media and public discussions.

Meanwhile, tributes to Mandela, whose release set in motion a series of events culminating in the peaceful end of the repressive apartheid regime, have been pouring in from around the country, with everyone sharing their memories of the historic day.

Mandela, who became the country's first black president four years after his release, marked the anniversary last week with a dinner at his home in Johannesburg for a group of ANC veterans.

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