This photograph was taken at Cape Town Airport, shortly after Comrade Madiba’s release from prison. He was travelling around the country, meeting communities and leaders in the period prior to our first democratic elections.
We were on our way to George to address business leaders and the people, including a meeting with the Groot Krokodil (apartheid President PW Botha). I was one of the organisers of the trip; you can see that I was busy briefing him about the people we’d be meeting and the issues that we expected the communities to raise.
Comrade Madiba is the most humble and modest leader one could possibly work with. When you speak to him he has a way of making you feel free and relaxed. He makes it very easy to interact with him, although you may have been shivering with nervousness on the inside. He definitely has an aura around him; he is not an ordinary person.
Let me tell you a little story about the Southern Cape trip to emphasise what I am talking of. I was chairing the meeting with business leaders, and realised that we were running out of time to meet Mr Botha. I scribbled a very polite note to him, saying, ‘Tata, please can you sum up as we are running out of time’. The next thing, he was reading my note to the entire meeting. He said, ‘Imagine an old man such as myself having to obey the instructions of my young leader, Hilda.’ He was telling the people that although he may have been President of the ANC, he was also a humble human being.
I’ll give you another example of his humility. My first encounter with him was in December 1989 when rumours began to circulate that he had been given a phone and fax by the regime and had sold out the movement. He invited members of the internal leadership to lunch at his house at Victor Verster Prison. I remember that Cheryl Carolus and Mildred Lesea were there, and I think Christmas Tinto. He not only served us lunch but also invited us to tour the house so we could see for ourselves that there were no telephone wires.
Quote: "Comrade Madiba is the most humble and modest leader one could possibly work with."