This photo was taken through the fence of the presidential residence, Genadendal, in Main Road, Rondebosch on 29 May 1996, the date of the first local government elections in Cape Town. It was also day I was taught a serious lesson in non-racialism by President Nelson Mandela.
To show his commitment to non-racialism and the ANC winning the City of Cape Town, the ANC President had registered to vote at his closest voting station, that at Westerford High School in Cape Town.
In the run-up to the election, Comrade Madiba had actively campaigned for the ANC candidate in his ward, Comrade Revel Fox. Together they hosted a number of meetings and visited many fellow voters in the ward. Revel, a prominent Afrikaner and architect, had volunteered to be the ANC candidate out of his commitment made during the path-breaking 1987 meeting of Afrikaners and the ANC in Dakar, Senegal, to convince his fellow white South Africans to support a non-racial future.
Early every morning Madiba used to exercise by going for a walk with his bodyguards, usually along Main Road, Rondebosch. He had decided to to walk from Genadendal his home, to the voting station about two kilometres away where he would cast his first local government election vote.
Walking slowly with him in the photo are Revel Fox, Carl Niehaus, Hein and bodyguards.
One of my tasks as provincial organising secretary was to ensure that all the books, pieces of paper and other objects which people wanted signed by Madiba got to his office and back to the owner. At every event we organised there were hundreds who wanted to hug and kiss him, take a photo or get an autograph. At the end of that, the last day of the campaign, I finally got the courage to ask my president for his autograph on my copy of the day’s program.
I had drawn up that program under much pressure to take the President to Coloured areas where we were struggling to win votes. That is why the printed program does not include an African area. At 6 that morning, as I briefed him on the long day ahead, Madiba had noticed this and chastised me for not understanding that building non-racialism meant that we must reach out to all areas, but to never forget to give recognition to the unwavering support for the ANC amongst African voters, who had suffered so much for the right to vote. It is a lesson I have never forgotten.
I have long been criticized that the shirt I wore on that day clashed with that of the President. In my defence I can only say it had been a long hard election campaign and being a bachelor that was all I had left in the cupboard!