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Thousands of people are expected to gather near Cape Town in South Africa today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release.

It will be the centrepiece of commemorations to mark the moment that Mandela emerged after 27 years behind bars, ushering in a transition from apartheid to multi-racial democracy and his rise to become the country’s first black president.

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This morning Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who held Mandela’s hand and punched the air in triumph on that day, will lead a 500-metre march from the former Victor Verster prison in Paarl, Western Cape, to symbolise the walk that was seen by a TV audience of millions.

Mandela’s former wife is also expected to address a rally attended by African National Congress veterans including Ahmed Kathrada and Denis Goldberg.

Mandela himself will not be present, but will make a rare public appearance in parliament this evening to hear the fourth post-apartheid president, Jacob Zuma, deliver a state of the nation address.

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