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Miracle Rising: South Africa


MIRACLE RISING®: SOUTH AFRICA is the epic legacy of South Africa’s political transformation that culminated in the first free and fair elections in April 1994. Narrated through personal and intimate accounts from world leaders, politicians, celebrities and journalists, this thought-provoking documentary reflects on South Africa’s very own ‘Miracle’ – the inspiring story of a journey from apartheid to democracy. MIRACLE RISING®: SOUTH AFRICA is a moving testament to the choices of people, both ordinary and iconic, where the human capacity to find compassion enabled a nation to avoid civil war and reach forgiveness for the greater good. From Nelson Mandela’s decision to learn Afrikaans while in prison, to the amnesty hearings of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, it explores the difficult decisions that were taken enabling enemies to achieve peace. From the evil legacy of apartheid, to the triumphant first democratic elections, the documentary moves beyond mere chronology, into the hearts and minds of the leaders and people of South Africa, culminating in the electrifying behind-scenes events of the elections. Offering valuable lessons in peace-making, MIRACLE RISING®: SOUTH AFRICA focuses on the visionary leadership and negotiations that brought about transition of the nationalist regime to a system of one-person, one-vote. Told through simple, intimate portraits of key players, it weaves an epic story of a nation into an intimate history of men and women determined to change the country for the best for all who live there.

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 Dr Niel Barnard

Head: South African National Intelligence Service (NIS) 1980-1992

He was the head of South Africa’s National Intelligence Service who recognized the security of his nation depended on the man his state had incarcerated. Dr Barnard secretly visited Nelson Mandela many times in prison and treated him not as a terrorist, but as a political representative.

At their first meeting in a prison office, Mandela was in the standard prison uniform of overall and boots. For subsequent meetings Dr Barnard ensured that Mandela was given a suit to wear and the setting was more neutral. And this was how the future president of South Africa came face to face with the current president, P.W Botha and then De Klerk.

It took all of Dr Barnard’s security skills to ensure that these talks remained unknown to the rest of the government so that a genuine consensus could be found between the two leaders before their talks became public.

At a time when many white South Africans hoped their security services would fight with everything at their disposal to continue white control, Dr Barnard put his country, not his colour first.

 Dr Pallo Jordan

Member: National Executive Committee (NEC) African National Congress (ANC)

Dr Zweledinga Pallo Jordan was just four or five paces to the left of the journalist Ruth First when she came back into their office carrying a pile of post. Unlike Ruth, Jordan survived the letter bomb sent by the South African security services.

Jordan studied in the both the US and the UK but still vividly remembers when the white government tried to enforce the teaching of Afrikaans on the black populace, a move that was resisted almost universally. Interestingly, Mandela didn’t, so as to better understand his enemy; and as President, he famously wore the often hated Springbok rugby top during the country’s Rugby World Cup win.

Jordan did not return to his homeland till the unbanning of the ANC in 1990. In 1993, when he found out that the popular leader, Chris Hani had been assassinated and it looked like the country may descend into bloodshed, he rushed Mandela to the television studios. He didn’t even have time to take off his reading glasses before he addressed the rival factions. His presidential-like address pointed out that though yet another black man had been killed by yet another white man, this time, a white woman had informed on the killer. The times were changing.

Jordan went onto serve in various Ministerial posts from 2004 to 2009.

 Mary Robinson

7th President of Ireland 1990-1997

Before she became the first female President of Ireland, Mary Robinson studied law under South African veteran politician, Kader Asmal, and joined the anti-Apartheid movement that he founded in Ireland. After her Presidency ended in 1997, she served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights until 2002.

During her first year as High Commissioner, she travelled to South Africa. She also sits on the Board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, an organization which supports good governance and great leadership in Africa. In 2004, she received Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award for her work in promoting human rights.

As a member of the Sir Richard Branson backed Mandela initiative, The Elders, Robinson visited London in 2012 for Mandela Day. This day encourages people around the world to give just 67 minutes of their time serving their communities in recognition of the 67 years that Mandela gave fighting for justice. But she’s very much a realist and has questioned whether South Africa was living up to the high expectations and has even questioned the ‘moral authority’ of the ANC.

 Peter Harris

Chief Director: Monitoring Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) 1994 Election

In 1994, Harris was given the impossible job of in just three months flat, preparing a country for its first democratic elections. If it’s easy to see the past as a done deal, that it was inevitable that peace would come to South Africa, Harris’s book, ‘Birth’ shows how precarious the whole process was. Alongside some of the biggest bombs in the country’s history being exploded during this period, an attempt was made to break into the electronic counting system of the election, the supervision of which was Harris’s responsibility.

One of many unbelievable moments occurred when a whole political party decided to stand a mere eight days before the election. This suddenly required the sticking on of 80 million stickers bearing that party’s candidate on 80 million voting slips. Other last minute hurdles included the overnight mass-production of invisible ink to restock the supplies that would cut down on electoral fraud.

The award winning author was born in Durban and he started his working life in law. It was this that led to his secondment to the National Peace Accord, and to his later heading of the Monitoring Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for the 1994 election.

After, he returned to law and did international consulting for the UN as an election operations expert in amongst other places, Mexico and Haiti.

 Waldo Stumpf

Chief Executive Officer: Atomic Energy Corporation of South Africa (AEC) 1990-2001

Dr Waldo Stumpf was the Chief Executive Officer of South Africa's Atomic Energy Commission. He oversaw the development (and then dismantling) of the top-secret South African nuclear arms programme, a programme so secret that it was never admitted to until two years after it was over. Between 1960 and 1980, six nuclear devices were assembled and between 1975 and 1977, two shafts were drilled for testing nuclear devices in the Kalahari Desert.

Around a thousand experts were involved in its creation but less than ten people ‘had an oversight of the entire programme.’ Top secret clearance was only granted to people born in the country with no other citizenship; Dr Stumpf was one of those people.

But, under pressure from both Washington and Moscow, South Africa surrendered its long-range missile capability and by June 1991, South Africa’s nuclear weapons programme was effectively over. A month later, the county joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

When asked later, however, Dr Stumpf refused to divulge the suppliers of nuclear technology. So, questions remain. How did the country acquire the technology to build nuclear weapons? And how much was their decommissioning due to the fear that the ANC, then considered a terrorist organization and almost certain to inherit power, couldn’t be trusted with a nuclear arsenal? That aside, South Africa stands alone as an example of a country that has rejected nuclear arms while simultaneously embracing nuclear energy.

Alfre Woodard

Actor & Activist

Alfre Woodard is an American film, stage and television actress, nominated for Academy, Grammy, Golden Globe and Emmy Awards. She became passionate about South Africa as a student at Boston University in the 1970s. In Zimbabwe, she played the role of Winnie Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela, in the HBO eponymous 1987 film.

In 1989, she became a founder and board member of Artists for a New South Africa which hopes to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. By 2001, nearly 25% of pregnant women there had the disease. Her charity has since raised more than $9million and has provided healthcare to over 3,500 South African AIDS orphans.

Woodard’s recent fundraising efforts include producing an audiobook of Nelson Mandela’s ‘Favorite African Folktales’ which features the voices of stars such as Hugh Jackman and Dame Helen Mirren. The sale of just one copy supports a child for a month.

Anand Naidoo

News Anchor: South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) 1994 Election

Anand Naidoo was born into a country where because of the colour of his skin, travelling on separate buses and eating in separate restaurants was the norm. But he grew up to become a South African & American TV anchor and later Senior Producer for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). He covered the stories of Nelson Mandela’s release and his country’s first non-racial, democratic elections, broadcasting from Johannesburg, which is where he began his career in journalism, as a newspaper reporter.

Naidoo later became anchor and Editor for CNN International and is currently an anchor & Correspondent for Al Jazeera English in Washington DC. So lately, South Africa has become more of a holiday destination than a home. But Naidoo is happy that when he does return, the younger members of his family have difficulty in believing his stories about his childhood under apartheid. His country has changed that much in just 20 years.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu wanted to be a teacher. But when the racist regime separated education along colour lines, it drove him to the Church. And from there, he set about politely undermining the architecture of apartheid. In 1975, he became the first black Anglican Dean of Johannesburg.

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his relentless religious criticism of apartheid during Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment.

Mandela later chose Archbishop Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which he did between 1996 and 2000. This was an opportunity to explore the atrocities committed by both sides. Despite decades of frontline experience, the “evil we have uncovered” appalled even him.

Now Archbishop Tutu serves as the chair of ‘The Elders’, the Mandela inspired and Sir Richard Branson backed enterprise to use the wisdom of retired statesman to try to solve global problems. One of their unsuccessful initiatives was to force Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwe dictator, to step down. Perhaps this is why Mugabe calls Archbishop Desmond Tutu ‘evil’.

Charles Villa Vicencio

National Research Director: South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission 1996-1998

It was Charles Villa Vicencio’s theological writings that helped turn white South African Christians away from a belief that apartheid was in any way God given. And between 1996 and 1998, he played a central role in South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission as its National Research Director. He is a key proponent of inclusivity which advocates, “…encompassing even members of the old regime and other potential spoilers of a settlement”.

Vicencio recognizes the limitations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but argues that it did achieve progress in that the divide in South Africa is no longer “literally a case of black and white…today the divide is as much about class as about race.”

Today, he spreads the lessons learnt through the Mandela days to other transitional countries through the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation which he established. Whenever Vicencio returns from these precarious Latin American and African countries, he thinks, “Thank God I live in South Africa”.

Christiane Amanpour

Global Affairs Anchor: ABC
Host of Amanpour: CNNi

Born in London and raised in Tehran, Christiane Amanpour went to America to study journalism and became CNN's chief international correspondent in 1992. Amanpour subscribes to the branch of journalism that believes objectivity is impossible in some situations. This was most obviously demonstrated in her reporting of the Siege of Sarajevo where she believed neutrality made reporters accomplices to the atrocities.

In 2012, she drew former president F.W. de Klerk into a position where he did not fully repudiate the concept of apartheid. As many expected him to use the interview as an opportunity to renounce South Africa’s brutal past, this made international headlines.

Amanpour has never interviewed Nelson Mandela although she did once have the opportunity. If she has seized it and stuck her microphone in his face, she would have realized her long held ambition and would have probably had an exclusive. But instead, she decided to let the man have a moment of privacy.

She is currently using her skill to obtain powerful interviews to explore how the 2012 South African strikes crisis is being fuelled by the perceived enrichment of a small elite at the expense of the majority.

Cyril Ramaphosa

Chief Negotiator: African National Congress (ANC) 1991-1993

Best known for building the National Union of Mineworkers into one of South Africa’s most powerful trade unions, Cyril Ramaphosa has recently been criticized for siding with the very business interests he used to fight.

Nearly thirty years ago, he led the largest wage strike in South Africa’s history when 300,000 mineworkers downed tools for three weeks. As well as being the general secretary of the NUM, he was also the ANC secretary general and met Nelson Mandela personally on his release. And Ramaphosa’s diplomacy and political acumen helped build the architecture of South Africa’s constitution and steer his country away from violent revolution into a peaceful democracy. When negotiations became especially tense, he and his opposing negotiator, Roelf Meyer, used to sing a song to the tune of “A Kiss to Build a Dream On”, substituting the word ‘deal’ for the word ‘kiss’.

Later, Mandela wanted Ramaphosa to serve as the country’s president, before Thabo Mbeki. When Ramaphosa failed to secure the presidency, he largely left public service and entered private industry. In 2011, he won the deal to take over McDonald’s in South Africa, sealing his status as one of the country’s successful businessman as well as most one of its most prominent anti-apartheid activists.

Dr Theuns Eloff

Head Administrator: Multi-party Negotiating Process 1991-1993

Theologian, entrepreneur, diplomat and academic leader, Dr Eloff is the great-great-great-grandson of Paul Kruger, the leader of the Boer struggle against British rule before the war. Dr Eloff’s struggle against apartheidcrystallized during the late 1970s when he was a theology student.

In 1977, the black student leader Steve Biko was tortured and died in police custody.
That same year, Dr Eloff, co-drafted the apartheid critique, The Koinonia Declaration (Koinonia comes from the Greek, meaning ‘Fellowship’. Two years later he was elected President of the national body of Afrikaans students. In this position, and later when serving as a religious minister, he promoted his belief that apartheid was morally repugnant. His views, considered controversial at the time, meant he had to step down from his church position.

After Nelson Mandela’s release, Dr Eloff was instrumental in planning the peace process that led to the National Peace Accord. During one the many deadlocks that marked the process, Dr Eloff wrote his thoughts on how to move forward on a flip-chart. A draft of the National Peace Accord agreement is currently in the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg in Dr Eloff’s own handwriting.

Dr. Mamphela Ramphele

Co-founder: Black Consciousness Movement (BCM)

Mamphela Ramphele wanted to be a scientist but she was black and female, in a racist, misogynist society and so was advised to enter medicine, where she attained her doctorate. During her studies, she helped co-found the Black Consciousness Movement with her partner and father of two of her children, the student activist, Steve Biko. Unlike him, she survived apartheid to see black men become Presidents of both South Africa and the US.

Considering her background, Dr Ramphele speaks surprisingly warmly about FW de Klerk, by acknowledging that considering the politics with which he’d been raised, she believes he needs to be “celebrated for having recognising that there is only one way forward.”

Dr Ramphele went on to enjoy a successful career, spending four years as a managing director of the World Bank. Her biggest regret is that she wasn’t able to marry the love of her life, Steve Biko. He was murdered in police custody during the couple’s marriage preparations.

Embeth Davidtz


Embeth Davidtz, was born in America but from the age of nine, was raised in South Africa, and is bilingual, speaking English and Afrikaans. She had a major role in the politically sensitive South African made-for-television film APrivate Life, as the daughter of an interracial couple. She garnered a South African equivalent of an Oscar nomination playing a rape victim who becomes deaf and mute, in the psychologically intense Afrikaans feature film, Nag van die 19de (Night of the 19th).

She moved to Los Angeles in 1992 and has appeared in a variety of films from the love interest in the third instalment of the zombie classic, Army of Darkness to starring as Helen Hirsch in Schindler's List.

Jeremy Thompson

Sky News, Africa Correspondent 1991-1995

Jeremy Thompson has reported on everything from the Yorkshire Ripper case to the OJ Simpson trial, and of course, the end of apartheid. The Sky News Presenter was originally appointed ITN’s foreign correspondent in Johannesburg in 1991 but moved to Sky as its Chief Africa Correspondent to cover the end of the regime.

South Africa is just one of almost 100 countries from which he’s reported. Thomson recently returned to Africa when he presented live on the ground during the uprisings in Libya. After four years living and working in South Africa, he and his wife try to return annually to their favourite holiday destination.

Mac Maharaj

Joint Secretary: Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) 1991-1993

A former communist turned businessman, the former fellow prisoner of Nelson Mandela is now the official spokesperson of the current South African President.

During his imprisonment on Robben Island, he secretly transcribed Mandela’s memoir ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, somehow cramming what would be 600 typed pages on to 60 ultra-thin sheets. Prison guards discovered Mandela’s original copy and destroyed it but in 1976, Mac Maharaj smuggled a copy out of prison and began publicising it around the world.

He was a member of the ANC’s armed wing, for whom he worked underground, attempting to get the organisation’s leaders back into the country and was himself later elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC.

After the country’s first free elections, Maharaj became democratic South Africa's first Minister of Transport. Now, as Presidential spokesperson, he is drawing on his years in opposition by calling for solutions to the 2012 industrial strikes to be politically based, and not simply police enforced.

Prof. Albie Sachs

Justice: Constitutional Court of South Africa 1994-2009

Born into a Jewish, trade unionist family, Albie Sachs was first arrested aged just 17 when he took part in a sit-in against apartheid. He became a lawyer and fought for many black clients, fighting not just for their rights but because of the death penalty in South Africa, sometimes their lives as well.

When Sachs’s political views lead to his inevitable arrest, he was imprisoned and placed into solitary confinement. On his release, he went into exile with his freedom fighting first wife. Even while exiled in Mozambique he was considered an enemy of the state and the security services targeted him with a car bomb. Sachs lost his arm and his eye in the explosion.

Sachs’s physical recovery mirrored his country’s rehabilitation and is captured in his memoir, ‘The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter’. This book helped his second wife fall in love with him, she later said. On his return to South Africa, Sachs played a key role in drafting its democratic constitution and in 1994 Nelson Mandela appointed him as a judge in the new constitutional court. In one of his many rulings, he recognized gay marriage.

Prof. James Joseph

US Ambassador to South Africa, 1996-2000

As a young college student, James Joseph protested and picketed against institutions that were involved with South Africa. As a professional adult, Professor Joseph served four American Presidents and was the only American ambassador to officially meet with President Mandela. It was at this meeting that he’s apparently said to have told the President it was nice that he could replace his ‘Free Mandela’ sign, with his official ambassadorial accreditation.

And in 1999, Professor Joseph was awarded the Order of Good Hope, by Mandela’s successor, President Thabo Mbeki, the highest honour a foreigner can receive from South Africa.

Named in 1979 as ‘One of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans’, he went onto become the founder of the US Southern Africa Center for Leadership and Public Value at the University of Cape Town.

Roelf Meyer

Chief Negotiator: National Party (NP) 1991-1993

This white South African son of a farmer became famous during the tense negotiations leading up to the free elections when he was able to build an easy rapport with the ANC’s chief negotiator. Cyril Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer symbolized the potential for the two sides to meet and move forward, without violence.

They first met when Meyer helicoptered into a spot where Ramaphosa was fishing. Meyer said he wanted to learn how to fish. He failed. (In fact, Ramaphosa had to give Meyer whiskey to ease the pain when the latter embedded a barbed fish hook in his ring finger.) Although the fishing lesson had failed, the two opponents had learnt to talk each other as men, not enemies.

The two also worked closely with Dr Niel Barnard, the head of the National Intelligence Service and another strong supporter of a negotiated settlement. After the country’s first free elections, the man first appointed by F.W. De Klerk, became Minister of Constitutional Development under the new President, Nelson Mandela. And it was there that he once again worked with Ramaphosa.
He has since left politics, though he still acts as a consultant on peace processes around the world.

Sir Richard Branson

Entrepreneur & Philanthropist

the fourth richest subject of the United Kingdom, according to the Forbes 2011 list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of US$4.2 billion. An English business magnate, best known for his Virgin Group of more than 400 companies, he’s also a committed to South African development through his Branson School of Entrepreneurship.

In addition, he funds Mandela’s ‘The Elders’, an ambitious attempt to bring together essentially the elder statesman of the world to solve global problems like climate change. One of their more unusual joint projects, as revealed by Wikileaks, was to try to persuade the Zimbabwe dictator, Robert Mugabe, to relinquish power.

Thabang Mabuza

Phila Ndwandwe’s son

The skeleton of Phila Portia Ndwandwe was unearthed in a shallow grave in March 1997, nine years after the freedom fighter had gone missing. Phila had been a member of ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’, the military wing African National Congress and in those days, members’ disappearance was not unusual.

The discovery of her remains shocked her father who had clung to the hope that was she was still alive and her sister, to find the grave had been so close to where she lived. But for her son, who had never known her, it was the start of a long, painful journey of discovery.

It was only through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Phila’s son, Thabang, found out what happened to his mother. He remembers aged just ten years old, going to a mass funeral for bodies recovered after the end of apartheid. But footage from that time shows a disorientated child, as if he understandably couldn’t, quite take in what was occurring. Mandela stands behind the boy as his arm is raised by a fellow mourner.

The TRC established that Hendrik Botha, a former member of the Port Natal Security Police had abducted Phila in the hope of turning her into an informer. Despite being stripped naked and tortured, she refused. So, a single bullet was used to end her life and a shallow grave dug not far from where she was executed. Lawrence Wasserman, the Security Policeman who executed her, commented how brave she had been in her resistance and it was he who led the TRC to her burial site. On disinterring her remains, it was found she’d died clutching a piece of fabric in a last dignified attempt to retain her modesty.

Whoopi Goldberg


Caryn Elaine Johnson, better known as Whoopi Goldberg, is famous for her Hollywood roles. Less well appreciated is her political activism. The American comedienne, actress, singer-songwriter, author and talk show host made her film debut in The Color Purple. She played Celie, a black woman living in the southern United States in the 1930s. Many drew parallels between America’s past racial discrimination and South Africa’s apartheid. Goldberg received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won her first Golden Globe Award for her role in the film. She was also the first African-American woman ever to host the Academy Awards.

In 1992, she appeared in the South African film, Sarafina, which depicted students involved in the Soweto riots. It was shot entirely on location in Soweto.

Goldberg took part in Mandela’s 70th birthday internationally filmed celebrations, an attempt to embarrass South Africa into releasing their most famous prisoner. When she came on stage, she quite happily revealed that all the acts were being told to avoid saying anything political.