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1956. A journalist who made his own news.

Peter Bruce Hazelhurst, son of  Edward and Edith Hazelhurst. 

This Journalist in Johannesburg, planned a daring aircraft plan.  His plan was to jump out of an aircraft in flight over the Wonderboom aerodrome, near Pretoria, imitating a bird!

This adventure earned him the title of THE BIRD MAN. Wings were made like a parachute?  His Aunt, however, double stitched the seams so that the “wings” would not split and fall apart.  This flight was executed and congratulated at the Pretoria Skydiving Club.


Peter Hazelhurst made news.  He jumped from 1959 into 1960.  This was the first night parachute jump ever attempted in South Africa.  The plane was piloted by Mr Arthur Thomas of the Rand Flying Club.  News headlines read:  Sunday Times, Johannesburg 3.1.1960, An historic and daring jump.

1961:  Peter Bruce Hazelhurst’s  fame grew when he was invited to attend an interview Mr Nelson MandelaThis was his amazing Journalism result:

The Interview with Mr Nelson Mandela, the last he was to give before his arrest by the Police in 1962. (by Peter Hazelhurst )

One day in May 1961 activist Ahmed Kathrada visited Mr Peter Hazelhurst in the Johannesburg newsroom and asked whether he would like to see the Leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe.  Nelson Mandela was on the run.  His ability to evade the police had earned him the nickname “the Black Pimpernel”

On the arranged day and time Mr Kathrada took Peter to a shop in central Johannesburg and he met and interviewed Mr Mandela in a back room for 70 minutes.

“Ruth First must have asked me to see you….. because she was in touch with the media” Mr Kathrada told Peter when they met again in June 2012.

In May 1961 Mr Mandela, then aged 42, was the leader of the planned three-day strike against South Africa becoming a republic.  He said in the interview that the strikes were not aimed at whites but directly at the Nationalist Party regime.  He also spoke about his vision of “a national convention of all groups of the country which would form a new non-racial constitution to bring about a new non-racial and democratic South African society.  Demonstrations were not to use violence.

Peter had to write a couple of white lies in his article.  He wrote that he had been blind-folded and transported by car to an address not known.  The day after the article appeared he was questioned by Colonel A Spengler, of the police’s Special Branch.

MR NELSON MANDELA was arrested on 5 August 1962. 

At his trial Peter was subpoenaed as a witness.

Peter went on to become a correspondent for the London Times covering the whole of Asia except Laos and North Korea.

After this huge event – the report was lost!  And then due to the efforts of another Journalist it was unearthed.

Madiba’s ‘last’ interview found

July 18 2012 at 09.56 am by Shaun Smillie

JOHANNESBURG. Nelson Mandel was SA’s most wanted man, and for a young journalist it was the scoop that launched his career.  The interview was with Nelson Mandela, the last he was to give before his arrest in 1962.

The young journalist was Peter Hazelhurst, who at the time worked for the Sunday Express.

For several decades the article had been lost, until yesterday, when the Nelson Mandela Foundation announced it had been found.  The article was discovered thanks to the SA National Library and the Nelson Mandela’s Centre of Memory.

Peter had become involved with the story when one day in May 1961 activist Ahmed Kathrada visited him in the Johannesburg newsroom.  He was asked if he would like to see the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe.  Mr Mandela, at the time, was on the run.  His ability to evade the police earned him the nickname of the Black Pimpernel.

In a 70-minute interview, the 42-year-old fugitive revealed that a series of planned strikes against SA becoming a republic were not aimed at whites but at the Nationalist government.  He also told that the demonstrators had strict instructions not to use violence.

Peter had to include a couple of white lies in his article.  He wrote that he had been blindfolded and taken to a house in a motor car, he did this to protect Mandela and those who had organised the interview.” He recalled. It wasn’t to be the last the reporter was to hear from the authorities about the article.

Mandela was arrested on August 5, 1962.  At his trial where he was charged with leaving the country illegally and inciting a strike, Peter was subpoenaed as a witness, because of his Mandela interview. Mandela conducted his own defense and in cross-examining he used the reporter for his own defense.  He was asked if he supported one-man-one-vote, to which he answered that he did.  Peter’s testimony was to no avail and Mr Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison  It was that last interview with Mandela that Hazelhurst said got him a job as a foreign correspondent for the Times of London.

Hazelhurst said he always felt indebted to Mr Kathrada for this, and the previous month had contacted the activist to thank him.  It was during this meeting Hazelhurst told Mr Kathrada and the senior researcher for the Mandela Centre of Memory, Sahm Venter, that he had lost the article decades earlier.  Mr Venter took up the challenge.  “The problem was that Peter couldn’t remember when he did the interview or when the article appeared,” said Venter.

The break came when Venter came across a newspaper article about the Mandela trial that made reference to Hazelhurst’s interview.  The date the story appeared was May 14, 1961.  With that, the newspaper was located in the National Library in Cape Town.  Peter Hazelhurst said he was amazed that when Mr Mandela was released from prison he spoke about his vision of a new non-racial and democratic SA society.  These were the same ideals he had spoke about 29 years earlier to a young reporter in Polly Street.


Peter Hazelhurst with Ahmed Kathrada
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