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Mandela the storyteller has Oscar cast spellbound
Identifying with the lead character in the Oscar-winning local film 'Tsotsi', former president Nelson Mandela proved a masterful storyteller.

Identifying with the lead character in the Oscar-winning local film 'Tsotsi', former president Nelson Mandela on Thursday himself proved a masterful storyteller when he told of his exploits as a pig thief.

"All of us were very mischievous in our younger days. You know, we had a method as young chaps of about 16 or 17, of stealing pigs," he narrated.

"We had very clever ways of doing so. We would take the remains of kaffir beer, as they called it, and then we'd go, and go to the direction of the wind, so that the wind would blow from us to the village where the pigs are.

"And then we leave a little bit of the remains of the beer, and then the pigs come out ... then we go further and put the stuff further away ... and they will follow us until when they are far away ... stab it... the owners will not hear its shouts, and then we roast it and eat it."

Mandela, who spent part of his youth as a herder in the rural village of Qunu in the Transkei, was speaking after meeting with the director and lead actors of the film 'Tsotsi', which won this year's Academy Award for best foreign-language film.

"Some of the leaders of this country and elsewhere in the world started with misdemeanours of all kinds, but as they grew up, they became responsible people who have served our country very well,"
Mandela said.

"And don't dismiss any youngsters who are not behaving according to your wishes. It is better to talk to them, to say 'No, you have made a mistake here. The correct procedure, you should have done so and so'," he said.

Responding to Mandela's assertion that the film had put South Africa on the map, 'Tsotsi's' director Gavin Hood said it was rather Mandela who had done so.

"...You put South Africa on the map, sir, you put us on the map so that we could follow, because without what you did, we would not have been able to make this film together as South Africans in a free country."

Hood said Mandela had told them during a private meeting that human beings should be presented as "flawed and not as angels".

The film 'Tsotsi' was about a flawed character who rediscovered his humanity.

Lead actor Presley Chweneyagae, who played the film's gangster, and actress Terry Pheto seemed spellbound after their private audience with Mandela.

Mandela, whose mischievous streak has obviously not left him, quipped to Pheko that she should give his regards to "one of your boyfriends". -- Sapa