Photo found in banned book brings an old story to life
Jan 31, 2008 – Mr Nelson Mandela has identified the person in a picture found by chance – recalling a tale of a hidden gun.
Mr Nelson Mandela recounts this early story:
“I prevailed upon a fellow named Bikitsha, whom I knew from home, to help me carry the suitcase to the front gate [of Crown Mines in Johannesburg]. A watchman at the gate stopped us both and said he needed to search the bag. Bikitsha protested, asserting that there was no contraband in the suitcase … As the watchman was closing it, Bikitsha, who was a cocky fellow, said, ‘Why do you make trouble? I told you there was nothing there.’ […] the watchman … then decided to search the case with a fine-toothed comb [… ] reached to the bottom of the case and found the very thing I prayed he would not: a loaded revolver wrapped inside some of my clothing. He turned to my friend and said, ‘You are under arrest.’ [….] The gun, an old revolver, had been my father’s and he had left it to me when he died. I had never used it, but as a precaution, I had brought it with me to the city.”
Many years later, probably in the late 1970s or early 1980s, South African historian Prof Charles van Onselen was browsing for “left of centre” second-hand books in a Johannesburg bookshop. There, he came across a copy of Eddie Roux’s book Time Longer Than Rope: The Black Man’s Struggle for Freedom in South Africa. The book was banned in South Africa at the time. Van Onselen bought the book and took it home. To his amazement, out dropped a picture of two young men – one of whom he immediately recognised as Robben Islander Nelson Mandela.
Mr Mandela has confirmed that the other person in the photo is the Bikitsha of the above story. The probable date of the picture is 1941.