Mint Condition

June 24 2021, 0 Comments

Most mornings at 5am you could find Nelson Mandela taking a walk around his suburb in Joburg.

It was remarkable for two reasons. The first was simply that the world’s most famous political prisoner, after 27 years mostly on Robben Island, was free to just take a walk. The second was that the walks took place in his adoptive suburb of Houghton.

Since the early days of this mining town done good, Houghton was where the wealthy and entitled made their homes.  The suburb under apartheid was a place of racial exclusivity, and living there was a symbol of immense status.

Mandela’s moving in was one of those gestures he made that turned many decades of painful racial distortion on its head.

His choice of Houghton was characteristic, much like his decision to speak to his jailers in their native Afrikaans, to understand them so he could encourage them to understand him.


An excerpt from I Love You I Hate You by Toby Shapshak. For the rest of this piece as well as others like this, get the book.

Toby Shapshak’s best job in a long career was shadowing Nelson Mandela as a young reporter. Joburg born and bred, he is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff magazine, and a and Financial Mail columnist. He has an abiding  passion and interest in how Africa innovates best and his TED Global talk on this topic earned him a feature in the New York Times.