Seeing this photograph engenders a great sense of privilege at having been part of the democratisation of my land, South Africa. The scene is one of the annual Cabinet photographs which were always moments for teasing and joke-making. I think we were all a little self-conscious and overwhelmed at the notion that we were a Cabinet. As I recall, this was the preparation for a photo of the Deputy Ministers. Judging by the people it seems that I must have recently become a Minister.
I will always treasure the honour of being in Mandela’s Cabinet. He was a massively calming presence as his inner strength pervaded any meeting and kept us younger members imbued with a sense of the dignity of the occasion. Mbeki’s massive grasp of virtually every portfolio and Mandela’s sense of wanting clear and practical proposals made meetings an invigorating and challenging experience. What I truly grew to love about my interactions with Mandela were the mix of strength of purpose with a mischievous sense of fun and gaiety. I cannot recall what he must have called me over for but I do know that when he did, he expected common sense and clarity – Mandela never gave much slack on those matters.
Looking at the people sitting and standing with him brings back a feeling of the profound sense of pride we had in having achieved an historic objective for our people. The sense of comradeship and intellectual camaraderie was inspiring. What Mandela always conveyed was a sense of humbleness about this great task – it was a task of the people and we were their bearers. It was a powerful lesson. We need to all learn it again as we honour him.
Quote: "What Mandela always conveyed was a sense of humbleness."