Raymond Suttner: Mandela as underground ‘black pimpernel’, late 1961-a glimpse

Below is a glimpse of Mandela operating underground as the ‘black pimpernel’ before his arrest in 1962. This is taken from the book, In the Shadow of Chief Albert Luthuli. Reflections of Goolam Suleiman, by Logan Naidoo, published by the Luthuli Museum in 2010:

 Shortly after Luthuli returned from receiving the Nobel Prize Mandela went to report to the chief on his tour of African countries   in his Groutville village, some distance from Durban, near Stanger.  Suleiman and others involved in the logistics for a full day meeting between Luthuli and Mandela  ‘received information that the Security Police were “ moving about “ between Tongaat and Verulam. …[Mandela had to go to Durban].

 ‘I [Suleiman] was to accompany Mandela, in his car.  We would meet again [with others responsible for logistics] in Durban at Ismail and Fatima Meer’s home.

 ‘I sat next to Mandela in the car. He was a tall figure dressed in khaki pants, a coat and boots.  He looked like a chauffeur and he drove very calmly out of Stanger.  I was terrified, to say the least, sitting next to the man who was the most wanted political figure in South Africa, but I realised that it was vital to keep Mandela out of police hands. Mandela drove through all the side roads, which he seemed to know very well on that dark night. Despite my fear I took strength from the calm and absolute confidence that he generated.

 ‘Here was a leader acting as if he was invisible. He drove along the dirt roads and through deviations, in what seemed a very circuitous journey.  Conversation in the car was at a minimum.  Suddenly in front of us there was a signboard reading Umhlanga.  From there the trip to Durban was quite easy. The street lights were comforting and gave me courage.’


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