The first time I saw Tata Madiba was on the Grand Parade after his release. I had been involved in organising the event with many others’, including Willie Hofmeyr, and to have him in our midst was like a dream. In the ensuing days, we were privileged to attend other events that he graced, to sing Sekunjalo with him, and other regional favourites such as, Stamp daai boude lam. I suppose you could describe those moments as ‘seeing him at a distance’.
They were all special moments, at a special time in our history. But, in hindsight, the few smaller meetings and events I was later lucky enough to attend were incredibly powerful. In these meetings Mr Mandela demonstrated the art of leadership, the importance of listening, of humility, of respect for all – but also the firmness of telling it as he saw it. He was both very giving and decisive.
This photograph was taken in 1996 during a briefing to Mr Mandela by Western Cape ANC officials in the town of Vredendal on the West Coast.
We always felt that he had a particular interest in the Western Cape – and insight into the politics of the province – perhaps because he had spent so many years imprisoned on Robben Island, at Pollsmoor and Victor Verster. In meetings such as the one that day in Vredendal one had the sense he was both very sensitive and well-informed.
Mr Mandela’s commitment to non-racialism was an example to us all. He also had an acute sense of strategy. He understood the value of respect for one another’s languages and cultures as a bridge to reach out across communities, particularly minority communities. He was always more than willing to speak Afrikaans, to address white farmers, to make everyone feel part of the united nation we were trying to build. He seemed to have an innate feel for it.
Quote: "Mr. Mandela demonstrated the art of leadership, the importance of listening, of humility, of respect for all – but also the firmness of telling it as he saw it."