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25 years since Rivonia trialists were freed

On this day in 1989 five of the eight ANC prisoners were released after spending 26 years in prison.

SOUTH AFRICA, Pretoria : Eight men, among them anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela, sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia trial leave the Palace of Justice in Pretoria 16 June 1964 with their fists raised in defiance through the barred windows of the prison car. The eight men were accused of conspiracy, sabotage and treason. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Today marks 25 years since five Rivonia trialists stepped out of prison as free men.

On this day in 1989 five of the eight African National Congress (ANC) political prisoners were released after spending 26 years in Pollsmoor Prison and Robben Island.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation says South Africans must celebrate the stories of these men as a reminder of how far the country has come.

The foundation's Zaakirah Vadi says Kathrada and Andrew Mlangeni today celebrated the milestone.

"Mlangeni spoke about his culture shock, because when he came out women were wearing mini-skirts and when he went into prison there was no such thing. Kathrada on the other hand spoke about seeing a fax machine for the first time."

Meanwhile, on Monday South African officials took 284 Rivonia Trial dictabelts to be digitised in France by specialists and are expected to be back in South Africa in 2016.

R3,2 million operation, which France is picking up the tab for, will eventually include 10,000 dictabelts recorded for four years from 1960.

The dictabelts are fragile and can no longer be accessed, but once digitised, the material which includes Nelson Mandela's famous speech from the dock will be made easily available for historians, film makers and researchers worldwide.

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