Navi Pillay, left, ascended to the heights of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Anant Singh, right, pulled himself from running a video store to producing “The Long Walk to Freedom’, says the writer.

Johannesburg - The award-winning filmmaker Anant Singh says February 11 1990, will forever be remembered as a watershed moment in the new South Africa’s young history. 

The day marked the first time former president Nelson Mandela stepped out prison as a free man after more than 27 years in prison. 

Singh, who shot the award-winning Madiba biopic, Long Walk To Freedom, remembered how the day brought about a ‘dramatic change’.

“The 11th of February 1990 will be remembered as one of the most significant days in the history of the world.  It was the day that dramatic change took place – the apartheid regime released Nelson Mandela after he served 27 years in prison.  

“Today, 30 years later, we celebrate this watershed event that changed South Africa forever,” he said.

Singh said he met the former statesman in Durban two weeks after his release and had spent a little over an hour with Mandela. 

“His gentle, caring and modest nature struck me. It is still the most momentous engagement I have ever had,” he remembers.

“Madiba’s release from prison set our nation on the course of liberation and culminated in the first democratic elections four years later.  Madiba provided the leadership we needed that led us to a peaceful transition from apartheid to freedom,” said Singh.

Singh said his successful career in film was catapulted by Mandela and the ANC, when he heeded a call in the 1980s for people to speak out against the apartheid regime. 

“Heeding that call, I made A Place of Weeping the first anti-apartheid film made in South Africa which we did on the run from the much-feared security police. Being inspired by Madiba, I have tried to tell important South African stories that are socially relevant.

“I am proud to have made Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, which celebrates Madiba’s life and his exceptional legacy. 

“As I reflect on the last 30 years, I acknowledge Madiba’s role in transforming South Africa by correcting the imbalances of the past.  We are grateful for his leadership in ending apartheid and restoring the dignity of our people, his efforts to promote nation building as he recognised the ‘fear’ in our transition, and him taking up the cause of the poor and those affected by HIV/AIDS. South Africa today benefits from Madiba’s actions which is a gift for future generations of our country.  

“Today, in the spirit of Madiba, we also salute the many thousands of people who committed their lives to our liberation, including Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Oliver Tambo, Neil Aggett and the many heroes of the struggle,” he said.