“Madiba A to Z tells the story [of Mandela’s journey] from personal experience and goes beyond the surface with a lively sense of humor and deep caring that even we South Africans can learn from.” —Ronnie Kasrils, former commander in the armed struggle and South Africa’s Minister of Intelligence in the post-apartheid government
A completely unique biography and thematic telling of the story of Nelson Mandela, Madiba A to Z draws on Danny Schechter’s forty-year relationship with Madiba, as he is known in his native South Africa. Danny collaborated closely with the makers of the major motion picture Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, a fictionalized biopic based on Mandela’s bestselling autobiography, released on November 29 from The Weinstein Company.
Each chapter of this unique portrait corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, and the letters cover major and minor, unexpected and fascinating themes in Mandela’s life and his impact on others: Athlete, Bully, Comrade, Forgiveness, Indigenous, Jailed, Militant, and President, to name a few. The book quotes liberally from Mandela himself, his ex-wives and other family members, global leaders, Mandela’s cellmates and guards on Robben Island, the team behind Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, former president F. W. de Klerk, members of the South African Police, and his comrades including his successor Thabo Mbeki.
Madiba A to Z reveals sides of Nelson Mandela that are not often discussed and angles of the anti-apartheid movement that most choose to brush under the table in order to focus on the happy-ending version of the story. As Schechter reports in the book, according to Mandela’s successor as president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, “the fundamental problems of South Africa, poverty, inequality, have remained unchanged since 1994.” This is partly because, as Schechter writes, “six months before the 1994 elections, when South Africa was being governed jointly by the ANC and the National Party under a Transitional Executive Council (TEC), there were secret negotiations about the economic future.”
Schechter also quotes Thabo Mbeki to the effect that even today one hindrance crippling the economy is an unwillingness on the part of South African companies to invest in South Africa: “Even today there are large volumes of investable money that South African companies are holding in cash, and not investing in the economy…this has been the situation ever since ’94, driven by a fear that there will be a crisis.”
There are many rarely spoken of revelations in Madiba A to Z, a book about Mandela’s brilliance, his courage, his tremendous impact in saving his country and its people of all races, but one that also shows how far South Africa still has to come.
DANNY SCHECHTER is an American journalist and a documentary filmmaker who made six non-fiction films with Mandela and who was asked personally by the filmmakers of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom to make a three-hour television documentary about the making of the forthcoming film. Schechter has worked in South Africa since the 1960s, which has given him unprecedented access to insiders. Schechter wrote about the liberation struggle and produced a TV news magazine for three years in its most crucial years from l988-91. Having worked both in public television and for CNN and ABC News, Schechter has also been part of the anti-apartheid movement globally as an activist, earning him the confidence of many anti-apartheid leaders. He continues to work around the world and lives in New York City.