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'Madiba is still a fighter'

Zuma says the Presidency is encouraged that Madiba is responding to treatment.

President Jacob Zuma says Nelson Mandela is as much of a fighter today as he was 50 years ago. He was speaking during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the raid on Liliesleaf Farm. Picture:EWN

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma said Nelson Mandela remains as much of a fighter now as he was 50 years ago when incidents such as the raid on Liliesleaf farm took place.

Zuma was speaking on Thursday during celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the raid at the farm.

The raid on Liliesleaf changed the course of the struggle against apartheid as well as the country's history.

Nelson Mandela and seven others were sentenced to life behind bars in the notorious Rivonia trial based on evidence seized during the raid on 11 July 1963.

The President paid tribute to the Rivonia trialists calling them an inspiration and saying their ideals will live forever.

Zuma said the revolutionary ideas discussed at Liliesleaf could not be contained on the farm or in prison cells.

"Liliesleaf must serve as a reminder that we have the ability as South Africans to respond to any situation at whatever level as dictated by concrete material conditions."

Meanwhile, Zuma also says the Presidency was encouraged that Madiba is responding to treatment in hospital.

He visited Mandela on Thursday at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria where he is being treated for a recurring lung infection.

MADIBA'S OMNIPRESENCE

Meanwhile, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe spoke about Madiba's "omnipresence" at the farm.

"His presence looms large and I think that's really the measure of the man."

Motlanthe said the anniversary marked a major milestone in South African history.

"We have democracy because the people who gathered here 50 years ago had a vision."

Struggle stalwart and fellow Rivonia trialist Denis Goldberg said he remembered the day of the raid with pride because even though he got arrested, in some way he helped change the country.

He was tasked with making weapons that would be used in an armed struggle to overthrow the apartheid government.

Goldberg said he was terrified by the arrest because he thought the apartheid government would kill them.

"The arrests led to a trial that I think changed the face of South Africa. The whole world turned against Apartheid."

Goldberg said although he misses Mandela, the former president's hospitalisation has made him accept the fate of life.

"You become ever more aware that life comes to an end as you get older."

He said he fondly remembers all the comrades who were part of the struggle for the country's freedom.

"I remember them with fondness and gratitude for having shared their lives."

MOVING EXPERIENCE

School pupils visiting the farm said the experience moved them.

"It really helps us understand what we've been through as a country," one learner said.

The events of 1963 were portrayed through a live reenactment which took place at the exact time a group of policemen jumped out of a fake dry-cleaning van to storm the farm.

Various other events were planned at the farm, including a gala dinner.