On his fifth day of freedom, NELSON MANDELA invited a TIME correspondent into his home for a chat about prison, freedom and the outlook for his country

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Q. What surprises you most about the changes you have seen?

A. The appearance of the place has changed very much, although poverty still stares you in the face. But from the point of view of the country as a whole, I am surprised by the extent to which a substantial number of whites have now accepted that a solution for this country lies in discussions with the ((African National Congress)), and their readiness to accept a nonracial South Africa.

Q. One of the first things you said was that you were not a prophet. Do people expect too much from you?

A. Well, I don't think so, although I felt the necessity of warning them that no individual can solve the enormous problems that face us. It is a collective effort that will enable us to solve ((our)) problems.

Q. Do you feel a heavy burden of responsibility?

A. I don't have any fear of a heavy responsibility. As I have said, I am a loyal and disciplined member of the A.N.C. My duty is to report to them, and I will use their machinery in any attempt to solve problems. I will not be acting as an individual. I will be acting as a member of a team.

Q. You look fit. How is your health?

A. My health, as far as I am concerned, is all right. I have been monitored by very top medical practitioners and specialists.

Q. How serious was your bout with tuberculosis two years ago?

A. Fortunately, they found it at a very initial stage. There was no spot or lesion in the lungs. They predicted very cautiously that it would clear away completely, and they assured me that it has cleared.

Q. What was the hardest thing about prison life?

A. We went through very harsh experiences at the beginning of our life imprisonment. I was never brutally assaulted, but many of my colleagues around me were.

Q. There were reports that you became friends with your guard.

A. In actual fact, there were three. There was Major Marais. He was in charge of the premises ((at Victor Verster Prison Farm)). Warrant Officer Gregory was his assistant. And Warrant Officer Swart was the man who actually lived with me in the house from 7 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon, when he left until the following morning. I got on very well with all of them. We became very close friends.

Q. Do you intend to see them again?

A. If I have the opportunity, I certainly will see them.

Q. Are you bitter that you lost these years of your life?

A. Yes and no. I am bitter. There were aspects that were rewarding. I have lost a great deal in the sense that I spent 27 years of my life in prison.

Q. Was your sacrifice worth it?

A. Yes, it was worth it. To go to prison because of your convictions, and be prepared to suffer for what you believe in, is something worthwhile. It is an achievement for a man to do his duty on earth irrespective of the consequences.

Q. When did the government become more conciliatory toward you?

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