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Updated: February 10, 2010 20:22 IST

South Africa to celebrate 20th anniversary of Mandela's prison release

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A close up view of the statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela, seen outside the Groot Drakenstein prison, near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, on Wednesday. Photo: AP.
A close up view of the statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela, seen outside the Groot Drakenstein prison, near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, on Wednesday. Photo: AP.

South Africa will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison on Thursday.

Mr. Mandela will attend special events for the occasion at this year’s opening of parliament on Thursday.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment for resisting against the ruling party’s apartheid policies and was lodged in Robben Island prison off Cape Town from 1964 to 1982. Thereafter, he was at Pollsmoor prison, near the mainland. He was released on February 11, 1990.

“We are especially honoured that Mandela has accepted to attend this occasion. The sheer presence of the man provides any occasion with grace and honour,” parliament speaker Max Sisulu, told reporters.

Mr. Sisulu’s announcement comes ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address on Thursday.

He said Mr. Mandela, former South African president and a Nobel Laureate, left an important legacy by encouraging South Africans to live together.

“I’m very proud to be one of the citizens of the country today,” he said.

The South African parliament has adopted the theme “Celebrate the Legacy of Mandela — Contribute to Nation Building” this year, BuaNews reported.

Meanwhile, a giant soccer ball, set to fly above parliament, will be unveiled on Thursday.

Deputy parliament speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo said in jest that she had no idea what her fellow parliamentarians and other guests would be wearing on the opening of parliament.

“What parliamentarians are going to wear on that day is always top secret. You don’t even know what your friend is going to wear,” said Ms. Mfeketo.

Mr. Sisulu said the reception committee that welcomed and received Mr. Mandela when he left prison would be present in the gallery. They are Ahmed Kathrada, Cheryl Carolus, Valli Moosa, Saki Macozoma, Cyril Ramaphosa and Trevor Manuel.

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