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Nelson Mandela Turns 90

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On Friday, former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela will celebrate his ninetieth birthday. Events marking the milestone have been held across the globe over the past month. We speak with Danny Schechter, who recently returned from South Africa, where he helped make the new documentary Viva Madiba: A Hero for All Seasons. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Danny, I want to stay on South Africa for a minute, because South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela will turn ninety tomorrow. Events marking the milestone have been held across the globe for the last month. In late June, Mandela attended a star-studded concert in London in his honor.

    NELSON MANDELA: Even as we celebrate, let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete. Where there is poverty and sickness, including AIDS, where human beings are being oppressed , there is more work to be done. Our work is for freedom for all.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Nelson Mandela in London. Danny Schechter recently returned from South Africa, where he helped make the new documentary Viva Madiba: A Hero for All Seasons. It debuts tomorrow night on South African Broadcasting. This is the opening of the film with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

    ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: His reputation in jail had grown, had grown to such an extent, I mean, it was a myth, and we were all going to be so disillusioned when he came, because we would see that he had feet of clay. People were going to be so disappointed at the real man. He was the political prisoner. And it gave our struggle the kind of impetus that nothing else could have, the call for the release of Nelson Mandela. And, you know, when he came out, pshaw, we needn’t have worried.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Viva Madiba: A Hero for All Seasons. It will air tomorrow night on South African Broadcasting. Danny Schechter, you just came back from South Africa. We just have a minute. You did five films on Mandela. You did South Africa Now on PBS for years in the United States, under apartheid. Your thoughts?

DANNY SCHECHTER: Well, obviously, you know, the fact that he’s ninety years old, that he’s become even more of an icon to people around the world, affected his message, his presence, his concern about AIDS, about poverty in the world, is still inspiring people, not just entertainers, but ordinary people in South Africa, who take rightful pride in his contribution.

He didn’t achieve everything that he wanted to achieve. Your own brother, David Goodman, wrote a brilliant book about South Africa and pointed to some of the limitations of what he was able to accomplish. But nevertheless, he tried. He tried to make the change that we need, and he still is trying at age ninety. And that’s an achievement, I think, that people recognize and admire.

And South Africa, they will — I’m hoping that this film Viva Madiba will be seen in the United States eventually and in other countries around the world. It’s not just about him. It’s about the struggle of a people for freedom, a struggle that they prevailed on, and a time when so many progressive battles have been lost. And so, I think we need to respect what he’s done and try to learn from it. And that, to me, is the reason I’ve been involved in all of this. I think there are lessons in the South African struggle that apply here in the United States: non-racialism, non-sexism, unifying a people of all groups, working with labor, working with church and other progressive people, building a coalition that can win. I think that those are some of the lessons from South Africa that’s inspired me.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Danny Schechter, I want to thank you for being with us. Danny Schechter, the News Dissector, his latest book is called Plunder; it’s just coming out now. We’ve also been joined by Max Fraad Wolff, economist and writer, writes for The Indypendent and The Huffington Post and the Asia Times and teaches at New School University.

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