BET's 'Madiba' Miniseries Covers A Lot Of Ground

by Caitlin Flynn

BET has described its Nelson Mandela miniseries, Madiba, as the cornerstone of the network's Black History Month programming. Based upon two of Mandela's autobiographies, Conversations With Myself and Nelson Mandela by Himself, the series stars Laurence Fishburne as the iconic anti-apartheid revolutionary and former President of South Africa. Mandela, who died in 2013 at the age of 95, arguably has one of the most fascinating lives of any historical figure and it'll be no easy feat to fit his story into one miniseries — so how many episodes is Madiba?

Madiba will air in three segments — the two-hour premiere is on Wednesday, Feb. 1 and the following two-hour installments will air on Feb. 8 and Feb. 15, for a total of six hours of programming. Although Mandela is the star and main focus of Madiba, the miniseries doesn't focus solely on him — according to BET, it "also pays homage to the many lesser known men and women who sacrificed and suffered alongside of him in South Africa’s quest for freedom." Madiba will also depict the South Africa government's violent efforts to anti-apartheid protests at all costs — so, needless to say, there will be a whole lot of historical information packed into these six hours.


To get a clearer idea of what will be covered in Madiba, let's take a quick look at the synopses of Conversations With Myself and Nelson Mandela by Himself. The former provides a close look at Mandela's private world and includes journal entries from his time on the run, private recorded conversations, and letters written during Mandela's many years in prison. Nelson Mandela by Himself is a collection of 60 years worth of quotations, taken from Mandela's private papers, speeches, and correspondences — so every decade of his life will be covered in some capacity. According to The Guardian, the miniseries opens with Mandela's childhood, but certain aspects of his personal and political life (such as his first marriage and his five-year trial for treason) are only touched upon briefly.

However, the outlet praises the miniseries for dedicating a good portion of screentime to Winnie Mandela, who was an inspiring activist in her own right. A January 2014 Guardian article asserts that, for South African women, she played a more important role than her husband — so I'm eager to learn more about this lesser-known hero when I watch Madiba. Two of Mandela's best friends, Oliver Tambo (Orlando Jones) and Walter Sisulu (David Harewood), will also get their share of screentime. Like Mandela, both men were also anti-apartheid activists and members of the African National Congress, and learning their stories will give viewers a more comprehensive view of the massive movement and its many members.

Although it's impossible to cover every aspect of Mandela's life and the anti-apartheid movement, it seems as though Madiba has managed to pack a seriously impressive amount of information and history into six hours.