I first met Tata Madiba in the flesh when boarding a plane in Bloemfontein in 1990. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There he was standing with a splendid Madiba shirt in the aisle, pleasantly greeting those around him. I rushed over to him and in an unsteady voice started to introduce myself. ‘No need to introduce yourself Randall,’ Madiba interrupted. ‘Thank you for all your good work in education.’ It was the biggest complement I ever received in my life.
I later had the privilege of serving as MP in the first democratic Parliament of South Africa under the inspirational Presidency of Tata Madiba.
I was part of the ANC Sport and Recreation Study Group in Parliament who were initially very opposed to the preservation of the Springbok rugby emblem. Upon hearing about our stance, Tata Madiba summoned the whole Study Group to Tuynhuys – at 06:00 in the morning – because his meetings for the day would start at seven. When I arrived there at quarter to six in the morning, Tata was sitting at the table in the front of the room, already on his second or third cup of coffee, signing some documents for his secretary.
With great humility Tata outlined his vision about reconciliation in our motherland, and the need for us as MPs to embrace the Springbok rugby players, who were mainly Afrikaners, and set an example of nation building to our emerging democratic nation. I truly embraced the inspiring vision Tata shared with us that early morning, and to this day I am a loyal Springbok supporter.
This picture, in which he is whispering in my ear, was just before a meeting in about 1996 in Parliament. I had just taken my seat before the start of the meeting when Tata called me over to the head table to greet me and to thank me for coming to the meeting. This was the customary graciousness, humility and warmth that had become such a magnificent hallmark of this colossus.
The rest of the meeting was just an oblivion to me in the realisation that I had shared such a magic moment with the greatest man in history.
On another occasion Madiba left the ring of his bodyguards around him, to step over and come and shake my hand when he saw me. I later saw him shake the hand of every single member of a huge school choir who sang for him in Graaff-Reinet.
This was the Madiba we knew. This was the Madiba we all loved.
Quote: "With great humility Tata outlined his vision about reconciliation in our motherland."