On trial he was Nelson Mandela, the ANC leader, standing tall, proud and dignified. He was exceptionally handsome with a magnificent physique, dark piercing eyes, sometimes narrowing above his high cheekbones until he looked almost oriental, sometimes opening wide in serious moments. But his infectious laughter and radiant smile often broke through his dignified reserve. He had the unique quality of being near to you and far away at the same time. Charismatic to a degree seldom seen, it is no wonder that even after more than 20 years on Robben Island, South Africa's dreaded maximum-security gaol, he remains head and shoulders above everyone else.
Mandela is recognised as the leader in the South African liberation struggle, respected and revered, not only by his fellow prisoners and by the ANC, but by thousands of people, black and white, the world over.
In our car he was Nelson, just one of us, as we shared our jokes and the peaches we bought and ate along the road - the "peach club" we called it. We shared so much else too, long political discussions, comment on the trial, which by now we accepted as a way of life. I don't recall any grumbling about it. We joked about our future sometimes and I would complain, "It's all right for you chaps, you will be together in gaol, but I'll get the husband poisoners because they are the only white women who get long sentences!" Sometimes Nelson would tell us of his childhood in the Transkei, the traditions and even the initiation rituals
Courtesy: Side by Side - The Autobiography of Helen Joseph