‘That night I returned with Winnie to No.
8115 in Orlando West. It was only then
that I knew in my heart I had left prison.
For me No. 8115 was the centre point of
my world, the place marked with an X in
my mental geography.’
The Long Walk to Freedom, on his
return to 8115 Orlando West after his
release from prison in 1990.
The Mandela House at 8115 Orlando
West, on the corner of Vilakazi and
Ngakane Streets, Soweto, was built in
1945, part of a Johannesburg City tender
for new houses in Orlando. Nelson
Mandela moved here in 1946 with his first
wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, They divorced in
1957, and from 1958 he was joined in the
house by his second wife, Nomzamo
Winifred Madikizela (Winnie).
He was to
spend little time here in the ensuing years,
as his role in struggle activities became
all-consuming and he was forced
underground (1961), living a life on the run
until his arrest and imprisonment in 1962.
Nelson Mandela returned here for a brief 11 days
after his release from Robben Island in
1990, before finally moving to his present
house in Houghton. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela,
herself imprisoned several times, lived in
the house with her daughters while
Nelson Mandela was in jail, until her own exile to
Brandfort in 1977, where she remained
under house arrest until 1986. The family
continued to occupy the house until 1996,
when the Mandelas divorced. The house was subsequently turned into a
public heritage site, with Nelson Mandela as the Founder Trustee.
‘The house itself was identical
to hundreds of others built on
postage-stamp-size plots on
dirt roads. It had the same
standard tin roof, the same
cement floor, a narrow kitchen,
and a bucket toilet at the back.
Although there were street
lamps outside we used paraffin
lamps as the homes were not
yet electrified. The bedroom
was so small that a double bed
took up almost the entire floor
‘It was the opposite of grand,
but it was my first true home of
my own and I was mightily
proud. A man is not a man
until he has a house of his
Nelson Mandela, The Long Walk