and colors, backgrounds, and with this extraordinary -- of and common humanity. i think that's what -- what he really did was he -- he managed to create a situation in which people overcame past differences and conflicts, problems they had, generations in some cases. what he represented was that able to overcome the past in creating a better future. >> tony blair, the former prime minister of britain, thank you for sharing some thoughts on this special day. once again those are live ticket furse from johannesburg, where people have gathered outside the home of nelson mandela to pay their respects. donna brazil is here, john king is here and era him rasool
is here. john, you were there in almost 20 years ago when nelson mandela was inaugurated. tell us what it was like. >> it remains the most powerful moment i have ever seen. before then, the vice president al gore mentioned the delegation. fidel castro was walking out of the hall, ga davi, many of the african leaders, some quite controversial to the leadership of the united states, were walking out, and then president-elect mandela, just moments he was having brief meetings. after he met with the vice president, there were a few reporters, and he shuffled over and very quietly and shook our hands and asked how we were doing. on this days when, that's who he was, this quiet dignity and grace. i want to show this.
the vips were given this. and some of us hung around. >> you were working for the associated press. >> at the time. this is the new stamp they issued that day, commemorating the new president, but there was a new national anthem, a new flag, an there's a commemorative stamp. these are the parliament buildings, i believe they're called the union buildings, and in this courtyard is where the ceremony w ld. you ha a who's who o wld balcony in the union building, and these generals in the military white dress uniforms, white men, handing over power to nelson mandela. at that moment everybody was crying, reporters, people in the stands, it was just amazing watching these white men in white dress uniforms essentially hand the power of south africa to this historic south african leader. we hung around and some of the
vips left these behind, so i was smart enough to pick up a couple. >> very smart. >> but i remember walking back to the hotel, i went down a hill, and there were just some city parks. there were people, poor people sitting in parks, all black people, just tears of joy. you've seen so many tears, if you cover wars or tragedy, you see so many tears of tragedy. there were tears of joy and people with nothing were celebrating the most that day. it is the most powerful thing i have ever seen. >> you remember that day, i assume, mr. ambassador? >> that was one of the most poignant days, for us, the moment that suddenly we were now responsible for running this country. with the airplanes. >> the fly-over. >> came over, our first instinct was to duck for cover, but then we realized, and someone shouted, they are ours.
and that was the moment when power settled into the hands of nelson mandela, but not in a way that was harsh, but he dealt with that power with the greatest of gentleness, that made the poorest people who had nothing, as you explained, john, with absolutely nothing, believe that even if they only had their dignity now, they had everything. >> that's the word. that's the word that strikes you, if you cover politics for a long time, so many leaders -- this is not a criticism, but they're loud. they make their mark by being loud, by leading new movements. it's just the quiet dignity. when you were in the room, you felt like you didn't belong in the same room with this man. >> one of those moments as a journalist, you will never forget. as a citizen of south africa, you will never forget. donna, you remember those days. it was the bill clinton administration in 1994.
>> and as an activist, who went over to help train many of the political workers, president mandela wanted us to be there to help them with their transition, to encourage people who had never before ever voted to get comfortable with the process. it really was a very special moment. >> i remember when i interviewed him in cape town, mr. ambassador, you'll remember there, in march of 1998, bill clinton was there the day before, nelson mandela took him as president of south africa on a tour of robin island where he was in the cell for, what, 16 years. and there were reports during that time on robben island, there were reports of that. he said that's ridiculous.
this is a new south africa. he was totally confident in the face and people of south africa. >> el had had -- if you had just done the greatest negotiations ever, to hand over power peacefully, without undue compromise, but with sufficient compromise, i think that he understood that he was giving those generals more than a place in the sand. he was giving them the freedom to be human. he was enjoying his freedom to be human. nelson mandela had this art of being ability to seduce loyalty, to be able to charm his way. no threats, just to show himself as a human being with all these vulnerabilities and frailities, and to inspire that confidence. the most important thing that each one of them, as well as those who ran the apartheid government, said we can work
with this man, and when they had that, i think everything became possible for nelson mandela. >> let me play a clip. people ask me all the time as a journalist, and i've been a journalist for the long time, what was the most important interview, guess i ever had an interview with. i always refer to nelson mandela, in cape town, the president atresidence in cape town, the first black president of south africa. i had been there in the '80s during apartheid. what a difference. let me play a clip from that sit-down. >> when you look at south africa's role, on the position on the world stage today, what role do you envision for this south africa, especially for trying -- presumably you would like to bring the united states closer together with some of these countries like iran, iraq, libya, cuba? do you want to play a role in
facilitating a closer u.s. relationship with these countries? >> well, the united states of america plays an important role in world affairs. all that i would like to happen is that american foreign policy should be consistent with the provisions of the united nations charter, which calls upon all member countries to try and settle disputes by peaceful means. as a world leader, we would like the units to set an example in trying to carry out the fundamental principles which are laid down in the freedom -- in the united nations charter. >> it was interesting, mr. ambassador. he really admired bill clinton, the president of the united states, who was there at cape town, but he was not reluctant to criticize the u.s. if he saw
the u.s. going in the wrong direction. >> i think that's the model authority that he has. he wants nothing from the world and he owes the world nothing. whatever sacrifice he could have made had been made. nothing more could be done to harm him. that's why i think the power of truth was the one he spoke, but he spoke in such a gentle way. there wasn't the vittry oldic, ideological razzmatazz that he was unfolding on the united states. it was simply a reminder that a superpower has certain responsibilities in the world and needs to be the first to set an example of peaceful dispute, but el he could do that, confident, because he had done that in south africa. he was not prescribing a way of resolving problems, that was really the power. >> i know you're planning a memorial here in washington. we'll talk about that, mr. ambassador in a moment. our special coverage in the life and times of nelson mandela will continue in a moment.
these are live pictures coming in from johannesburg, where people are remembering this great world leader. we're aig. and we're here. to help secure retirements and protect financial futures. to help communities recover and rebuild. for companies going from garage to global. on the ground, in the air, even into space. we repaid every dollar america lent us. and gave america back a profit. we're here to keep our promises. to help you realize a better tomorrow. from the families of aig, happy holidays.
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people are celebrating, though, the life and times. these are coming in from johannesburg, outside the home of nelson mandela. it's approaching 2:00 a.m. in south africa, but the people are out on the streets. i suspect they will be throughout these next ten days of official mourning in south africa. we're watching what's going on, and writtening us on the phone right now is basimo gabriel, who spent years in robben island in the prison with nelson mandela. mr. swatwali, thank you for joining us. give us some thoughts, what it was like during the apartheid regime. tell us what it was like, eye specially on robben island in prison. >> well, let me first say that our people in south africa and
the world have lost . that's what we learned from nelson mandela. during the dark days with him on robben island. today he is seen as an icon of the world, whose teachings, as well as principles need to be embraced by all. he was embraced even by his own jailers, because he demonstrated that through the power of dialogue through the elements and two of reconciliation,
people on different sides, former enemies, can come together. that's how -- we solve our intractable problems. we concluded that in order for us to create a new democratic society for a united and nonviolent south africa was to embrace all people. that was seen through the -- >> i have a pictures, mr. sexwale, of the cell. it's robben island. i think we'll be able to show our viewers, a cell where mr. nelson mandela spent so many years. there it is right there. awful conditions. he took president clinton there in march of 1998 on a tour. i remember that well. i was the white house
correspondent for cnn at the time, and it was -- it was a moment that i'll never forget. but i'm going to show our viewers, the picture of the two of you, you and nelson mandela. you worked together. how many years were you in robben island prison together with him? >> well, nelson mandela spent a total of 27 years, that's well known through the world. i got a discount. i was in prison for 15 years, spending 13 of those on robben isla island. but it's not about the time that we spent there, but the time we spent there discussion, strategizing, looking at how the future ahead of us. you're talking about a small cell. the cells are small, but it contained a formidable, a very
large, larger than life figure, but someone who was very humble, who loved life. those principles were well through the years. today we see nelson mandela, the principles of dialogue, and on robben island, side by side with other leaders. of course, nelson mandela is gone, but let me tell you, mandela must live forever. >> let's hope it does, mr. sexwale, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this day. speaking of robben island, i spoke with nelson mandela in
march of '98, a day after he toured robben island together with then president bill clinton. here's what he told me. we saw you take president clinton to robben island to your cell where you spent 18 years as a political prisoner. today we're sitting here in your beautiful home. the contrast between that cell and this home here in cape town is remarkable, but it must be so amazing for you to see where you are right now, see where south africa is right now, and to remember those days, which were only a few years ago. >> no, that is true the fact that i spent so many years is only a part of my background. i don't think about it, because as i pointed out to the president yesterday, when i think of those days, unpleasant memories arise in my mind, and
though it is tragic, but at the same time it is an important lesson, because human beings are human beings. that is one of the areas where we started to understand the thinking of the people of south africa. by accepting the integrity of people in the enemy camp and sitting down to discuss matters, especially when you have quite a strong case. it is the best way to address problems. and we have been able for change. thinking of the leaders, the important leaders of the country. to change them to our own point of view. there are difficulties, of course. those we expected. when you take into account the
way south african society was split from top to bottom by tensions, conflict and bloodshed, what has happened in south africa today is a miracle. and as i have said, it is futile to be thinking about what happened in the past. we are thinking about what is happening now and what should happen tomorrow. >> part of my interview with nelson mandela in capetown at the residence in 1998. these are live pictures here from johannesburg outside the home of nelson mandela. now it is approaching 2:00 a.m. to celebrate what's going on. this is new york city, harlem. the apollo theater in memory of nelson mandela on the marquis where people are getting ready to remember him. there will be a memorial service in washington. we're about to get some details.
people all over the world are remembering nelson mandela. don lemon is in harlem at the apollo theater. a very special place, tell us why. >> reporter: absolutely. he visited here in 1990 after he got out of prison. you can see the marquis. it says nelson mandela, 1918-2013. he changed our world. i'm standing here next to this gentleman for a reason. he is the in-house cultural director and tour guide for the apollo. you were here when nelson mandela visited in 1990. what was that like? >> i was so blessed to be a part of the hundreds of thousands of people that were here to welcome nelson mandela to harlem. it was a very emotional time for me. a very spiritual -- it felt like a spiritual time. >> he felt a connection here.
i live in the neighborhood. there are many africans, a place they call little africa not far from here. >> on 116th street between madison, they have little african shops, african restaurants, african culture. litz africa. >> and he was surprised to see so many south africans living here. >> that's troofl he saw so many black people here. harlem is the central of black culture and he knew where he was at. he knew exactly where a lot of the people he wanted to see were. >> thank you very much. and they're here right now. they have marquis there contemplating whether they'll do a service or celebration that is still in the works. no information on that. >> thank you very much. joe johns is monitoring reaction on social media. it is pouring in from around the world. >> so true. it is coming not just from politicians by any stretch of the imagination. we have one statement here from
mohamed ali, the great fighter. some called the greatest of all time. he said what i will remember most about mr. mandela is that he was a man whose heart and soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices. metal bars are the burden of hate and revenge. he taught us, forgiveness on a grand scale. and we have a statement here from bono, the musician activist best nobody with u-2. emif he was born to teach the age a lesson in humility, in humor and above all, patience. in the end, nelson mandela showed us how to love rather than hate. not because he had never surrendered to rage or violence but because he learned that love would do a better job. so those are just two of the many statements coming in from all over the world as people celebrated the life and times of
nelson mandela. >> and more and more will be pouring in over the next ten days of official mourning. the south african ambassador is here. and i understand here in washington, you're planning for some sort of memorial service as well? >> in the next few minutes we'll convene the meeting of black trade unions, the embassy, the faith communities, in order to give shape to what it is. but in our minds, it would be in the middle of next week in washington. we think the place at the washington cathedral. that is what we're aiming at. preferably wednesday but those are the details we will tie up. and outs our embassy at the newly installed statue of analysis mandela that represents the step he took out of prison. we will be unfinished as the embassy is. there is still some construction. we believe that will be an
important place where nelson mandela could be remembered by those who may want to put some flowers or sign a condolence book. >> so you'll have that on massachusetts avenue. we're showing our viewers a live picture of the statue. i drive down that massachusetts avenue like john king does, donna brazil does every day. and i see that statue and i see the construction going on there. and i think of the history of south africa. and it is a wonderful tribute that donna, a quick time thought. >> no question about it. i think mr. mandela would want to us gather at that statue to remember his long journey. >> if you look at capitals around the world, there are divisions. some violent, some political. what a lesson this man was of the power of dignity and grace. & and mr. ambassador, thank you for joining us. we'll be with you next wednesday.
we'll be watching what's happening in south africa over the next ten days of mourning. nelson man dadela has passed aw. thank you for watching our special situation room coverage of the passing of nelson mandela. much more coming up right now on erin burnett "outfront" with jake tapper filling in. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com good evening. you're watching erin burnett "outfront." we're following the news story of nelson mandela, the first black president of south africa. an