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Mandela jokes about his pig-stealing days

Written by: Staff

CAPE TOWN, Mar 16 (Reuters) World leaders have their faults, former South Africa President Nelson Mandela today said, regaling the cast of an Oscar-winning gangster movie with tales of his own teenage years as a pig thief.

''All of us were very mischievous in our younger days,'' he said after meeting with the cast of Tsotsi. ''You know, we had a method as young chaps of about 16 or 17, of stealing pigs.'' South Africa's first Academy Award-winning film, Tsotsi portrays a violent young gangster's journey of redemption after stealing a car and shooting its owner, only to discover a baby in the back seat.

Sporting a gangster-style hat, the 87-year-old Nobel laureate joked that he, too, had a wayward youth, roasting stolen pigs in the remote hills near his birthplace of Qunu, where he spent much of his younger days herding livestock.

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

'Kaffir' is a derogatory term sometimes used by whites in southern Africa to refer to blacks.

''And then we leave a little bit of the remains of the beer, and then the pigs come out.

''Once we are far away we will get behind the pigs and drive them to a valley especially on the banks of the river, and then stab it ... the owners will not hear its sounds and then we would roast it and eat it,'' he said to loud laughter from the cast and journalists.

But Mandela said leaders grow out of their misdemeanours.

''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,'' he said.

Reuters OM DB2245

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