My Moment with the Legend Nelson Mandela

Through the lens of photojournalist Benny Gool, 42 people recall the time they met the international icon

By The Nelson Mandela Foundation

Retire coverThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

An experience of a lifetime

As an international icon Nelson Mandela has been sought out by the world’s rich and famous and he has been surrounded by celebrity. But the mantle of celebrity has never sat well on him, and he has worked hard at making himself accessible to ‘ordinary people’. He was never more comfortable than when he could escape the trappings of formality and relate to people on a person-to-person basis. For many, meeting him in this context has provided the experience of a lifetime.

From Presidents, human-activists to students, Nelson Mandela's life was documented by photojournalist Benny Gool. Listen to the fascinating stories from some of the people who were lucky enough to meet Nelson Mandela.

Veronica Simmers recalls the moment she met Nelson Mandela in 1990:

"It was the beginning of March 1990, a few weeks after the release of our Comrade Mandela from his imprisonment of 27 years. I was fortunate to be among the women who were invited to a meeting at the Samaj Centre in Rylands to meet Comrade Mandela."

"I was very, very excited. I just had one goal: To be as close as possible to this great man when he entered the hall. Knowing that one could not single him out from the rest of the Rivonia Trialists, I just wanted to see this comrade who was prepared to die for the freedom of his people and I wanted to be as close to him as possible."

"On the evening of the meeting I was fortunate to sit in the front row, next to Comrade Nomaindia Mfeketo. Both of us said we would love to have an opportunity to at least hug Comrade Mandela. As he walked into the hall towards the stage, accompanied by security guards, he was smiling, laughing and waved at all of us. I was so excited, I was happy, I felt honoured to be in the company of this great man with the heart of a giant."

"As he was looking at us all the time, I decided to use body language to communicate to him that I would like to hug and kiss him. He fully understood what I said and nodded his head, “yes.”

"After a while as we stood up to sing a freedom song, Nomaindia said, “Ronnie, I think the Comrade wants to say something to you.” As I looked at him he showed with his hands that I must come to him. I was excited beyond words, on cloud nine. I walked past the security guards, who did not stop me. I went up to Comrade Mandela, hugged him, kissed him and told him how much we loved him. I was so overwhelmed with happiness that I was rendered speechless. I was in a world of my own as I walked off the stage."

"Thank you, my Comrade Madiba, for having granted me that golden and unforgettable opportunity."

Trevor ManuelOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Trevor Manuel recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 1990:

"This photograph was taken at the then-D F Malan Airport in about May of 1990. One other person in the picture (right) is Reg September, who was then Convenor of the ANC Internal Leadership Corps for the Western Cape. He was there to welcome Madiba to the Western Cape in that capacity."

"Madiba was in Cape Town for a brief meeting with then-President F. W. de Klerk at Tuynhuys. He arrived at around lunchtime and returned to Johannesburg at around 18h00. He was accompanied by Mr Kingsley Mamabolo. My role was to act as his driver/general assistant. On this occasion, it was my first visit to Tuynhuys, an occasion made more memorable that my first visit was as a driver."

"Footnote: By this time, I had already worked with Madiba around his release; I accompanied him on his first historic international trip to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Sweden, where he met up with Oliver Tambo; and I deputised for Uncle Reg September on the internal Leadership Corps until his return from exile."

Archbishop Lawrence Henry (1993-01-01)Original Source: To download a photograph click here

Archbishop Lawrence Henry recalls a moment with Nelson mandela in 1993:

"After Mr Nelson Mandela’s release from prison he effectively wanted to pay tribute to all who were involved in “the Struggle”. He came to the community in Athlone, and particularly to Holy Mass at St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church there to remember Coline Williams and Robert Waterwich – two young Catholics who were actively involved and who had been killed when a bomb exploded at the Athlone Magistrate’s Court."

"The photograph shows me giving Holy Communion to Madiba. I was taken totally by surprise when he presented himself before me to receive the Sacrament because by normal Catholic practice Holy Communion should only be given to Catholics and Madiba is, of course not a Catholic."

"When the photograph and the report of the event appeared in the local press I was roundly criticized and condemned by some Catholics for going against the normal Catholic practice. They were horrified to the extent that there was even a call for me to resign or to be removed as the Archbishop of Cape Town."

"The Apostolic Delegate (the Pope’s representative in the country) also approached me for an explanation, as he needed to inform the Vatican about what had happened. In my response to the Vatican I stated that were I presented on a future occasion with a similar situation I would necessarily again have to act in the same way."

"I was greatly consoled and encouraged by Cardinal Owen McCann who, as a former Archbishop of Cape Town, assured me that I had done the proper thing and that it had been done in a dignified and respectful manner. He supported me and said that he would have done likewise."

"As for Madiba, and indeed for the people in the congregation on that day, it was a day of special grace and blessing."

Lindiwe FassieOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Lindiwe Fassie recalls the moment she met Nelson Mandela in 1993:

"It was a Sunday morning. Me and my family were all sitting in the lounge reminiscing about my mom’s funeral. We had buried her on Saturday. The next thing, my big sister Vuyiswa came running into the house telling us that there were police private cars coming to the house. We were also surprised because children were shouting, ‘Tata Tata’ outside. In an instant this bodyguard came in the house and stood there and he followed. We jumped up and down ‘cause we were not expecting such a great man would come into our house. You see, Brenda had predicted that we’ll have a black president and true to predictions Tata was our president."

"He came into the house and greeted us all by our names which was very surprising indeed. He sat us all down and told us that the tree has fallen (mom) and that we have to be very careful and not let this house go down. He gave us advice on life and whilst he was talking, I was crying. I felt honoured to have Tata Madiba sitting on my mom’s chair. To be honest I will never forget that day ever."

"After giving us all advice, he left us and people outside started ululating, ‘Tata Tata’. I feel very honoured to be writing about my favourite person in the world. Ukhula Tata Ukhokhobe Madiba ngqolomsila Yem yem Zondwa Zintshabe. Halaa Tata Halala."

Archbishop Desmund Tutu recalls a defining moment with Nelson Mandela in 1994:

"1994 was a special year for us. We were free and had had our first democratic elections which the ANC, as expected, won hands down. But the President is chosen not by the people but by Parliament. On this day in May Nelson Mandela had just been elected unanimously by Parliament."

"I said to God, 'it has happened, what we had dreamt about, what so many had died for, had been imprisoned and tortured for, and had gone into exile, yes it had happened. Apartheid, injustice, oppression had been comprehensively defeated and now we were free. God if I die now, I won't mind!"

"I was given the incredible honor of introducing the newly elected President and his two Deputy Presidents,Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk to the thousands waiting eagerly on the Grand Parade in front of the City Hall, and to an expectant world out there sitting before their TV sets. The mayor was wonderfully generous to have invited me to do the honours. So I said, 'This is day we have waited for for 300 years. This is our brand new out of the box President' and the cheers were ear-splitting as I raised Madiba's hand as if he had been a boxer who had just won a boxing match."

"What a moment!"

Evita BezuidenhoutOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Evita Bezuidenhout recall the moment meeting Nelson Mandela in 1994:

"Nelson Mandela was to address the masses at a final ANC rally in Retreat, Cape Town before the 1994 Election. in. Then a phone call to me, asking if I would bring Evita Bezuidenhout to entertain the people. My first chance to meet Madiba! Allan Boesak introduced Evita with his usual high-pitched flair. Thunderous applause, not louder than the banging of my heart. Was this also my audition for the New South Africa?"

"Evita surged onto the stage. The fact that she was wearing her traditional Voortrekker dress in the old orange, white and blue made it even more surreal. ‘They said Mr Mandela would be here and I brought him some koeksisters!’ Roars of approval. The kids just stared. When Evita was finished, I was anxious to go into the caravan and put Tannie back in the box. ‘No,’ said Alan. ‘You must stay here. Nelson Mandela wants to meet you.’ You? Me? Evita? Who? So I sat. In the front row. Acting a Nancy Reagan waiting for her Ronnie. I heard a piercing hiss. ‘Pssst! Madam!’ In the front row a cluster of township youths, balaclavas and rosettes waved, smiling. Then they threw sweets at Evita. Two little boys came up from the back of the stage. Trevor Manuel’s kids."

"‘Are you a man or a woman?’ one asked seriously. Evita smiled sweetly, ‘Ask your father.’ Then a noise like an approaching tsunami. Louder and louder from far down the field, closer and closer. He had arrived with that smile, dazzling, patient, hugging, holding, laughing, forgiving. Remembering. Then he looked up and saw me. No, he saw her. Nelson Mandela opened his arms and came towards Mrs Bezuidenhout with a delighted laugh. ‘Evita! Evita! You look so beautiful!"

Farida Omar (1994-01-01)Original Source: To download a photograph click here

Farida Omar recalls the moment she met Nelson Mandela in 1994:

"In 1994 I participated in a women’s march to Parliament in order to hand over a memorandum to President Mandela. He came out and greeted everybody. I was pushing someone in a wheelchair, and when the President got to me he kissed my hand. I felt like I was going to die! I was so excited."

“The circumstances were very different to those in which I first met Mr Mandela, in. I brought his grandson, Mandla Mandela, for a visit to prison. I remember him as a tall 12-year-old boy who closely resembled his grandfather. The evening before the visit I prepared some samoosas and sandwiches for Mandla to take to his grandfather, in the hope that the guards would permit Madiba to eat them. The next morning, when the two of us got to the prison, the guard, unaware that Mandla was the only one with permission to see Mr Mandela, let us both in.

“In the old days I had a fruit and vegetable stall at the Salt River market, and every time Dullah (my husband, and Mr Mandela’s lawyer) went to visit Mr Mandela I would give him a bag of fruit to hand out to whoever he came into contact with. But he always returned with the fruit, the guards having searched his bag. In 1979 Dullah had a heart attack. In his absence, another lawyer went to Robben Island. The day before the visit, he visited my stall to enquire about Dullah. I gave him a bag of fruit. The following day he returned with a personal thank you from Mr Mandela; he had managed to get the fruit into the prison without being searched. Mr Mandela said it was the first time in 19 years that he’d seen a banana!"

"Mrs Omar is the widow of Dullah Omar, who was appointed by Mr Mandela as Minister of Justice in South Africa’s first democratically elected government."

Walther (Wally) RhoodeOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Walther (Wally) Rhoode recalls a moment with Nelson Mandela in 1995:

"What all protectors or bodyguards dread most is if the protection operational plan is not according to the script. And working with Madiba this always seemed to be the case. You could brief him on the operational plan and sometimes it would go according to script. But then there were the outside influences, like large crowds and receiving line politicians, who would brief him without informing the protection detail."

"During the early days when Madiba visited Cape Town, the ANC Western Cape leadership would mobilise ANC supporters to be at the airport, and given the euphoria surrounding his visits it made planning and securing him difficult."

"The hangar where the aircraft landed was within a secure area of Cape Town International Airport, and part of the planning was to secure an area for television camera operators and photographers. But this time the ANC leadership brought supporters with them, and after briefing them he decided to go and greet the crowds."

"When tasked with planning, it is important to have information of the receiving line. But while the journalists and leaders were known to us, the crowd was a different issue. You did not know who was friendly or who may have had ulterior motives."

"Basically, the adrenalin was high, anxiety levels were high, and radio communication was poor. Crowds such as the one in the really tested your training and provided new lessons for the next assignment. Personally, I was worried that nothing would happen to him as I was responsible for the planning and I knew the country would blame us should anything happen to him."

Linda McGregor (1995-01-01)Original Source: To download a photograph click here

Linda McGregor recalls the moment she met Nelson Mandela in 1995:

"Presidential smooch. That was the title of the photo of me hugging and kissing the then President Mr Nelson Mandela as it appeared on page 3 of the Cape Times on 3rd May 1995. I still get goosebumps as I recall that day. MyMoment with a Legend. What a thrill."

"Workers Day 1995. President Mandela was to address the rally at the Athlone stadium. My disappointment at not being able to attend the rally due to work constraints soon turned to absolute excitement as I learned that he would be stopping at the Hanover Park Community Health Care Centre where I together with two other nurses and a doctor who was on duty, before going to the stadium."

"Saturday morning 1st May. Hanover Park came out in their numbers to welcome President Mandela to their troubled, dusty township. The street leading to the Health Care Centre was lined with people bearing placards with messages of welcome and well wishes. All staff reported for duty where normally only emergency personnel was required to staff the trauma unit. The excitement was palpable."

"President Mandela arrives to loud cheers and in true Madiba style he spends a few minutes greeting the community. He is then escorted into the education centre where he addresses us. (The staff of Hanover Park CHC). I (Linda McGregor) was chosen to pose a question about the high rate of gangsterism in our community. Q and A time arrives. I boldly raise my hand, stand up, take a deep breath and start shaking. My mouth completely dry and to my disdain, start giggling. I could not utter a single word. The great man rescued me from further embarrassment by stepping in and answering the question as if nothing happened."

"After the vote of thanks (Icannot remember by whom) Madiba walked around the room greeting the personnel, shaking all outstretched hands. My fear was that he would not reach our end as his security kept telling him to wrap up."

"To this day I cannot recall how I, who was standing in the second row, managed to do what I did. The photo confirms it. I had my arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips, hence the newspaper caption ‘Presidential smooch.”

"That was my moment with a legend. The emotion I felt and shared with my colleagues at Hanover Park CHC was, and is, indescribable to this day –11 years later."

"Thank you Madiba."

Student Dirk Willem Venter recalls his meeting with Nelson Mandela in 1996:

"Even though this photograph was taken almost 15 years ago, the day I met Mr. Mandela still stands out in my memory. I heard many stories of how lucky we were to have a great man such as him as our president and although I was very small, I felt deep awe at being lucky enough to meet him face to face. As time passed and his distinctive voice filled my ears, my understanding grew about what a blessing he was for our country."

"He visited Worcester for the official launch of the Blue Train. I was selected from a group of students from my school to hand him a gift. I remember being nervous and a little apprehensive as I didn't know what to expect when meeting such a great man. He did not talk down to me as a grown-up to a kid, but instead smiled and told me how happy he was to meet me and my fellow students from the Pioneer School."

"I did not know it then, but meeting him truly changed my life. I am one of only three completely blind students in the country to study BSc Computer Science. His example taught me to never give up and never regard myself too highly above others."

"His example taught me to never give up and never regard myself too highly above others."

Leon WesselsOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Former Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Leon Wessels recalls a moment he shared with Nelson Mandela in 1996:

"This is 12h20 on 8 May 1996. The Constitutional Assembly (CA) has just concluded its official business (12h08) – after two years of constitutional negotiation – by agreeing to the final Constitution. We are walking from parliament to President Mandela’s office in Tuynhuys for a small celebration before joining the members of the Constitutional Assembly for a photo opportunity and public festivities."

"In the photograph, Madiba and FW de Klerk are flanked by their security men. Cyril Ramaphosa, chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly, is nearby but not in the picture. I accompany these two Nobel Peace Prize winners because I am the Deputy Chair of the Constitutional Assembly."

"Two years have lapsed since Madiba’s election as head of state on 9 May 1994. The constitutional negotiations have yielded – within the required time period – the desired result; South Africa now has its final constitution, drafted by democratically elected members of the CA."

"There is much banter between Mandela and De Klerk about their previous public spats; and how the proceedings this day went smoothly without any wrangles."

"Fulfilling the role of Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly is the highlight of my political career. Simply being in the presence of two men honoured by the Nobel Peace Prize committee, and being valued by someone revered by the world, is an unforgettable moment."

"Madiba makes me feel special – as if my presiding over the proceedings was the reason why the CA had completed its work in good time, “Leon, your performance today was a kragtoer (tour de force). Thank you very much! Since I first met you in Oslo, (August 1990) you have never disappointed me.”

"I cannot imagine the negotiating process and South Africa’s transition to democracy without him. What a giant! If I had not rubbed shoulders with this legend, I would have been poorer."

Geraldine Fraser MoleketiOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Geraldine Fraser Moleketi recalls the moment she met Nelson Mnadela in 1996:

"This particular photograph captures a personal assessment visit by President Nelson Mandela (Tata Madiba, as he is affectionately known), President of the Republic of South Africa at the time, on 1 December 1996 to disaster stricken areas in South Cape. I was Minister for Welfare and Population Development at the time."

"This formed part of the formal assessment, by government, of the extent of damage in which, “at least two people died after heavy rains fell in the districts of Uniondale, Oudtshoorn, Calitzdorp, Ladismith and George. Both the Olifants and Kammanassie rivers burst their banks leaving a trail of devastation. About 350 households were affected and severe damage caused to personal effects and houses. Approximately 500 farmers suffered loss in terms of infrastructure, livestock and cash crops which also left many seasonal workers unemployed. Agricultural damage amounted to about R73 million. Hundreds of farm workers were also affected in the areas, which in total employ about 140 000 people in the agricultural sector. Most of them suffered loss of income or other damage due to the floods. Farm workers will be given financial assistance on an ex-gratia basis for damage or loss.” (Statement issued by the Ministry of Welfare and Population Development)."

"Tata Madiba was determined to reach all affected areas, on the Sunday (1 December 1996), as he wanted to hear directly from the communities involved whether farm workers or farmers. It was humbling to see this outreach and witness his concern about the immediate and direct impact of this disaster on the people and communities in the affected areas. He was also greatly concerned about the impact on their livelihoods in the medium and longer term."

"We moved from community to community speaking with farm workers and farmers alike listening to them as they described the events that they experienced, sharing their pain, explaining their losses (whether human, property or livestock) and showing us the actual physical destruction. They vividly described the implications for them personally and, in instances, for the broader communities involved."

"I was yet again struck by the involvement and engagement of the President Tata Madiba in the detail as so graphically captured in this photograph. (I say, “yet again” as I had the rare privilege of accompanying him to various communities across the country in the course of my work."

"On that Sunday it crossed my mind that he was as formidable as the towering sandstone cliffs of the Swartberg mountain range, in the Meiringspoort area, one of the areas that entered by helicopter, on that Sunday, to reach communities that were cut off by the devastating floods."

"As awesome as those sandstone cliffs was the humanity of a remarkable leader and I was in awe by his deep personal concern and depth of engagement with members of these communities, irrespective of their status in society. This occasion, as did other such, further strengthened my commitment to serve, with compassion and resolve."

Marius FransmanOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Former politician Marius Fransman recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 1996:

"If a picture tells a thousand words, then a moment is hardly adequate to capture a legend, a legion and indeed a lion of the struggle of the oppressed people’s of the world. Perhaps it is a sign of the statuesque greatness of the man that he made the simplest of acts significant and made the most insignificant amongst us feel relevant and important. So it was on a September morning in 1996 that a simple question will forever remind me of my moment with a legend."

"Vredendal is a typical South African little rural town on the West Coast of the Western Cape with a tiny population. It had been a bastion of right-wing Afrikaner conservatism under apartheid but over time had become a vestige of Madiba’s political home, the African National Congress (ANC). This was largely as a result of the support of the rural coloured working class and the groundbreaking work that young cadres such as myself were doing amongst farm workers and other critical sectors."

"Madiba had been awarded the Freedom of Vredendal a year or so earlier and I had played no significant part in bestowing that accolade. He undoubtedly was a worthy recipient and perhaps the bestower was more honoured by the distinction than the recipient. The details of the process, the ream of administrative acts, the pile of logistics and of course the painstaking protocol that such a process would have entailed – all of this is now beyond my recollection, including my own role in the process."

"Not so for Madiba. Nearly two years removed from the event, and geographically far from the place; when any insignificant detail could hardly have been expected to be recalled, he looked me straight into the eye and in an instant placed me – “How is Vredendal?” he asked."

Alec Erwin (1996) by Benny GoolOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Alec Erwin recalls a pivotal moment with nelson Mandela in 1996:

"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."

Donny ThebusOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Donny Thebus recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 1996:

"If memory serves me correctly this photograph was taken during the run-up to the first South African Local Government Election in 1996 in Cape Town. To provide a narrative of the photograph after 15 years would appear to be difficult for some, especially for a close protector, as logic would dictate that one’s focus was on the perceived threat and risks to the President at the time. But for the few of us who actively participated in the anti-apartheid struggle as students and youth in the 1980’s and later to become part of President Nelson Mandela’s permanent close protection detail, every day working with “The Old Man” turned out to be seminal moment in our own historical narrative."

"For me, and others, these moments represented the hitherto success of our own political activism and consciousness fused with the resilience of a visionary leader such as President Nelson Mandela, who industriously set out to build non-racialism and a common humanity for all South Africans."

"The late Raymond Beta, a close protector, looks upon President Mandela with the awe in which he was held by all close protectors who had the honor of working for him. It is this gaze that we all had at times as close protectors, that here we had a President that we need to protect as a living legend, but who, at the same time, represented and espoused our hopes and aspirations for the future of all South Africans."

"I guess this is what is reflective from the community’s response in the photograph, the acknowledgement that here is a man that not only inspired our historical moment, but makes us feel that we are an integral part of making our own history together."

Max Ozinsky (1996-01-01)Original Source: To download a photograph click here

Max Ozinsky recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 1996:

"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!"

Former Liberation soldier Desmond Stevens recalls a moment with Nelson Mandela in 1996:

"We were told that for the first time in the history of Macassar, a President would come to us. The town was ecstatic to receive Madiba. As his cavalcade drove into the complex, I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt as if freedom was tangible; and I just wanted to shake Madiba’s hand."

"He’s a very tall man and he towered over us on that day. But he immediately connected with the people, even those from other parties who were opposing his visit. He connected and had that aura around him. I was standing there on the stage with him, every time just glancing towards him, smiling and laughing. He greeted me, ‘how are you?’ And I couldn’t say anything. I was so excited that I was speechless. The day was wonderful and I will remember it for the rest of my life."

"I was a candidate for the Local Government Elections and he came and supported us. We understood later that it was a request from him that he wanted to go to an area where the people were not supporting the ANC. We took him to some flats, but even those with anti-Madiba posters shouted with joy and happiness when they saw him."

"That area was very much supporting the old National Party who were the founders of Apartheid. Madiba went to a few houses, and even people who said they didn’t want to see him later saw him. He had this magical effect on them. I was all around him, walking with him. I glowed in the glory of being with Madiba. That’s why I feel I will cherish that picture for the rest of my life."

"We didn’t win that election because the NP was very entrenched and much fear was created around the ANC. The people were starting to love Madiba but the ANC was still an unknown factor in those communities as the ANC had been banned for many decades."

Ronnie KasrilsOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Former minister Ronnie Kasrils recalls a moment with Nelson Mandela in 1996:

"My moment took place in a modest room of a Durban safe house in July 1962. The Natal Command of Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) had assembled there with no idea whom we were to meet. Present were Curnick Ndlovu, the regional commander, his deputy Billy Nair, a youngish trade unionist Bruno Mtolo and myself. An imposing, bearded man, with a grave expression, wearing khaki trousers and shirt, was ushered in. We jumped to our feet to shake hands and pat his back. It was none other than our national commander-in-chief Nelson Mandela."

"Having disappeared the year before to prepare for the underground struggle and MKs armed actions, the "Black Pimpernell", as he was referred to in the press, had slipped back into the country after an historic visit abroad. He spoke with us for a good hour, about the independence struggles sweeping Africa, the inspiration of having met leaders of Algeria's liberation movement, and the need to step up the armed struggle at home. He encouraged us to get physically fit, recruit the most reliable and daring cadres, focus on training and reconnaissance of targets, and step up our actions. He stressed studying the methods of guerrilla warfare such as in Algeria, Cuba and Cyprus, and referred to the importance of African resistance heroes such as Kenya's Dedan Kimathi."

"I was bold enough to make reference to the rural Transkei and forested Wild Coast as areas "tailor-made" for guerrilla struggle and enquired how he thought our sabotage campaign might develop into higher methods of people's war. I was somewhat disappointed because he was quite cursory in his response. Much later I surmised that this had been because MK’s High Command was only then grappling at the Rivonia Headquarters with Operation Mayibuye and this very process. He took notes of our individual biographies and only appeared to really concentrate on Bruno Mtolo who had recently been brought onto our command."

"As fate turned out Mtolo later became a traitor and gave evidence against Mandela and the leadership in the 1964 Rivonia Trial. Madiba was captured a week after our Durban meeting at a police road block -- to our immense distress. It emerged that he had far too many meetings with activists in the province. He had also paid a special visit to Chief Albert Luthuli to brief him on his visit to Africa and took pains to assure the ANC President of the need to break with the non-violent methods of the past. Whatever Luthuli's misgivings may have been, my understanding through discussions with leadership was that, he had accepted the development. Mandela's arrest made us strive harder still to develop MKs operations. We stole dynamite from a road construction company and our actions around the country consequently became much more potent. Madiba's courage, and that of the leadership and cadres in general, became the stuff on which we developed the high morale and conviction of MK recruits, and our people in general, through the difficult years."

"I met him for a second time at an ANC leadership meeting in Soweto in 1990. When he entered the room I had my back to him. I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder and a voice enquiring’ "Is this Ronnie?" I whirled around to see that strong face for the second time in my life and we warmly embraced."

Zolani MkivaOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Zolani Mkiva recalls a moment with Nelson Mandela in 1996:

"To be given an opportunity in a lifetime to lead a leader by way of employing an idiomatic expression carried over through poetic verses, where you are not only ushering him but you are showering him with words of praise, singing his praises, outlining his genealogical roots, his struggles, his achievements, in a context where an historic national milestone is being authored, is such an exciting moment in one’s life."

"This photograph was taken during the adoption of the new Constitution of South Africa in 1996, when I was given a golden moment to sing the praises of Mandela inside the chambers of Parliament. It was an unprecedented ceremony, wherein for the first time in the history of this country, an oral traditional praise poet was asked to recite in a place dripping with parliamentary protocols, symbolizing the restoration of the dignity of our heritage."

Denise September recalls a moment with Nelson Mandela in 1996:

I remember that phenomenal day as if it was yesterday. The day was 1 May 1996, and Madiba was visiting Hanover Park Day Hospital, my workplace. As one of the staff members who was involved in the preparations for the day, I was feverishly rushing about trying to get everything organized and perfect for the visit."

/Everything was in place, when I discovered there was no stage for Madiba to stand on. I rushed to the doctor’s rooms, to collect steps they use in front on their beds for patients to step on. I then proceeded to build a mini-stage from these steps and stood back to admire my handiwork, when I felt a severe pain across my neck."

"The pain was so bad, worse than childbirth, I thought in my mind, but not wanting to miss the legendary man’s visit, I quickly rushed to the trauma unit and asked for help. After the sugar water, prayer and injection and more prayer, the pain still remained and worsened."

"The decision was finally made, that I remain in the trauma laying down and miss Madiba’s visit, but this brought on such vehement protest in my mind and I told them that no stone will be left unturned, but that I will see Madiba that day, even if they had to push me in a wheelchair. This was the opportunity of a lifetime and one that I was not going to miss for anything in the world."

"He finally arrived and our excitement knew no bounds. Me, with a painful neck, which I had half forgotten about in all the hype and excitement, pressed forward through the crowd, not wanting my special turn to be missed. Eventually it happened – I was one of the last of the staff members Madiba greeted, but as he put out his hand, I grabbed him and hugged him close for a long, long moment."

"I heard the other staff call my name as if from afar and tell me to let go, but I thought to myself, this is my moment and I am going to make it last."

Singer Vicky Sampson recalls her second moment meeting Nelson Mandela in 1997:

“He then proceeded to start doing the ‘Madiba Jive’ while I was singing!!! What a treat!!! Boy, can he jive!!”

"That particular ‘moment with Madiba’ came about as a result of South Africa having come so close to winning the bid to host the Olympics. I was asked to sing My African Dream and of course I did!"

"It was such a moment, having Madiba on the stage with me. He had such a good memory then and remembered the other times that we had met and said that I should keep up the good work and that I made South Africa proud. He then proceeded to start doing the ‘Madiba Jive’ while I was singing!!! What a treat!!! Boy, can he jive!!"

"I also remember that the current Miss South Africa, (I forget her name right now), was on-stage as well, clapping and enjoying the atmosphere. It was certainly one of the most special moments of my life and I know that his strength, humility and dignified manner has had a very powerful impact on me, as a woman, performer and human being."

"I believe that if we had more people like him around, this world could be so much better and easier to live in for all. I continue to be inspired by his spirit and great sense of being human and try to live by his example."

Dr Gro BrundtlandOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Former Prime Minister of Norway and Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Gro Brundtland recalls the moment she met Nelson Mandela in 1997:

"I remember this visit to Robben island well. Behind me in the picture is the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bjoern Tore Godal."

"To me and to my generation of Norwegian social democrats, Nelson Mandela was our most revered hero. We cried for Steven Biko, we fought against apartheid and for direct support to the struggle. We argued for boycotts. A free South Africa and our call, "Free Nelson Mandela" was key to our attention and emotion."

"Personally, I was lucky to meet Madiba in 1990, when he visited Oslo for a conference on tolerance, while still not a fully free man. As former Prime Minister and as Party leader of the Labour Party, I was given the opportunity to have a breakfast meeting with him."

"The strongest impression upon me was his personality. His attitude and reflections about his choice to trust Mr De Klerk, as they were in discussions about the future of their country, impressed me immensely."

Archbishop Njongonkulu NdunganeOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane recalls a moment with Nelson Mandela in 1997:

"The picture brings together two of the greatest South African leaders whom I have admiration and respect for and with whom I happen to have some association. Nelson Mandela; with whom I shared the most terrible hardy days of Robben Island has been a mentor who inspired most of us and gave us ground for hope; a leader par excellence who took South African to where she had never been before. Desmond Tutu; a great spiritual leader with whom I worked very closely in the traumatic period of the history of our country when he was General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches and later Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. He was a beacon of light when our leaders were at Robben Island and in exile."

"It was a great pleasure to have had these two icons as my guests at Bishopscourt when I was incumbent Archbishop of Cape Town. The occasion was a farewell function for Archbishop Desmond Tutu who, as you know, was my immediate predecessor. The setting is the garden at Bishopscourt which was in full bloom at the time. I had invited our icon and hero, President Mandela to come, given that he had spent his first time of freedom as Archbishop Tutu’s guest at Bishopscourt. Notably also, President Mandela had held his first press conference announcing his message to South Africa and to the world at Bishopscourt. In the background is the UCT Choir for Africa, which graced this significant occasion. What a wonderful occasion that was!"

Athena SotomiOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Athena Sotomi recalls a moment with Nelson Mandela in 1997:

"The publishers, Little Brown, commissioned photojournalist Benny Gool to do a portrait for the illustrated version of A Long Walk to Freedom. I was gobsmacked when Benny asked me to assist at the photo shoot at Genadendaal, the official residence of the President. I was excited, nervous and overwhelmed all at once but knew that I had to calm down – this was after all a professional photo shoot."

"President Mandela did everything he could to make us feel comfortable – he was utterly gracious, charming and co-operative. We took photos inside and outside. In the first few minutes of meeting him all I could do was gape and try not to stumble over my words."

"Later, I worried that he might have thought I was rude. I couldn’t believe how tall he was. When we were in the garden I looked around and saw that his bodyguards had formed a large, tight circle around all of us and even though I was familiar with the history of Mandela the activist, prisoner, father, husband and finally president, it was inside that tight circle that the enormity of the legend he had already become hit home."

"Afterwards he insisted that we have tea with him and requested that Priscilla Naidoo join us. I took the opportunity to give him a gift of a record that was given to me by Dudu Pukwana, the South African musician who considered Mandela his icon. I didn’t know that Benny had taken this photograph – he gave it to me a few days later. It is a wonderful gift of remembrance that will always be treasured and shared with my children."

Chris FerndaleOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Chris Ferndale recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 1997:

The increase in violence, crime and the resulting trauma for many families and communities across the Western Cape prompted the Western Cape Anti-crime Forum executive to publish an open letter to the President during October 1997 calling for the “sacking of the Minister for Safety and Security Sidney Mufamadi”.

"The minister had visited certain “privileged families” and areas affected by crime and violence, but failed to show interest in the plight of communities in poor areas of the Western Cape – despite his office receiving a number of reports and requests."

"The published letter caught the attention of the office of President Mandela, who called for a meeting with a delegation of the Anti-crime Forum on the 15 October 1997."

"As the Chairperson of the forum, I was briefed in detail by our executive on our collective demands for the transformation of the criminal justice system, and the sacking of the Minister. Our objective was to stand firm and not be persuaded by Madiba’s magic."

"On the morning of the meeting, a delegation of twenty CPF representatives from Cape Town, Langa, Manenberg, Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Lavender Hill, Bonteheuwel, Kensington, Gugulethu, Stellenbosch and Worcester entered the Parliamentary boardroom where Madiba was to address us."

"Among those present was the Minister of Justice, Dullah Omar, who was very supportive of our organisation. He attended many community meetings with us in order to educate Community Police Forums about judicial processes and rights. The Provincial MEC for Safety and Security Gerald Morkel had been summoned to listen to our demands."

"Madiba entered the meeting with an open smile and immediately charmed our delegation for a few minutes. He opened his address with “Sidney is a very good man. He is diligent in the execution of his duties.” He then continued to speak about the commitment of his cabinet to address all our concerns."

"When it came to my turn to address Madiba, I could not contradict the him by calling for the resignation of one of his “most respected cabinet ministers”.

"I sketched a detailed analysis of the ongoing gang warfare, drug problems, trauma, prevailing crime situation, the lack of political will and coherent programme to deal with the issues, but could not bring myself to call for the sacking of the minister. We criticised the local MEC for his lack of strategic planning in respect of resolving the endemic crime problems. I got angry stares and a kick under the table from our delegation for not making the final demand."

"Madiba responded very sympathetically to our cause and committed himself to speak to the honourable Minister of Safety and Security to resolve the ongoing gang violence and crime problems of the Western Cape.

"At the end of the meeting we had a photo session with Madiba. Our members scrambled to stand next to him. I stood in the back row to the far left, feeling a bit guilty that I had not stuck to the “mandate”. I had been disempowered by his statesman’s presence, charm, and sensitive human nature."

"Certain comrades would not speak to me that afternoon and were completely disillusioned that we missed this great opportunity to gain a victory for the victims of crime."

The next morning at 5.30am my phone rang continuously with journalists wanting to know, “how I feel about the fact that we will be visiting crime hotspots with Madiba?”

"I was shocked and surprised but could not confirm anything as I had not been officially informed of the visit. By 8.30am I was back at Parliament where Madiba met me with a big smile and commented, “Chris you have nice haircut”.

"I joined Gaynor Wasser, the Deputy Chair of the Western Cape Anti-Crime Forum, Comrade Ebrahim Rassool and the President on a helicopter flight across the Cape Flats."

"We sat opposite the President and explained the socio-economic context of the areas that we flew over. The doors of the helicopter were opened and we flew at a low height so that we could get a good view of the townships."

"We landed in Mitchells Plain where Madiba was joined by a member of the police’s anti-gang unit, who briefed him en-route to Elsies River."

"We were placed in a vehicle at the back of the convoy and could only rejoin him in Elsies River. On arrival at a local sports complex, the small stand was packed with about 200 community members."

"The VIP security officials ushered Madiba back to the waiting helicopter, when I rushed forward, took him by the arm and guided him back to meet Danny Brown, and to address the people."

"The police officials were very annoyed at my intervention. Madiba politely informed me that he knew Danny, and about the tragic loss of his son, and that he would like to address the people."

"As he spoke on crime and safety, I scanned the crowd and saw a number of local gang-leaders and their members, and realised why the police were in such a hurry to get Madiba away from area. The gangsters nodded and cheered Madiba respectfully, for having addressed them. The security officials would not allow me back on the helicopter and I had to hurriedly find a lift back to town."

"These were two significant and great days in my life. As a youth volunteer in the democratic struggle I studied Mr Mandela’s history, the M-Plan and strategy and tactics of the movement throughout its history. There were many times when we discussed, campaigned and planned for his release, but never knew what it would be to meet him as a person."

"Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela is truly a humble icon, a people’s leader and a friend of the poor."

Nkosinathi BikoOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Nkosinathi Biko recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 1997:

"The photograph was taken on the occasion of then President Nelson Mandela’s visit to Ginsberg in September 1997 as part of the 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the death in detention of Bantu Stephen Biko."

"During the commemorative activities, President Mandela unveiled the Biko Statue in Oxford Street, East London, and declared the Biko family home in Ginsberg Township a National Heritage Site, (afterwards known as the Biko Monument) before stopping at the grave of Bantu Stephen Biko to pay his respects."

"The picture was taken at the graveside. From left to right; Samora Biko, Nkosinathi Biko (Steve Biko’s sons), President Mandela, Mrs Nontsikelelo Biko (Steve Biko’s widow), Ms Nobandile Biko (Steve Biko’s sister) and Khaya Biko (Steve Biko’s brother)."

Nomfundo Walaza recalls the moment she met Nelson Mandela in 1997:

"This photograph was taken on the day that we were invited to meet with the President, at a time when there was quite a lot of conflict between the organization known as PAGAD and communities that were affected by gang violence in the Western Cape."

"I remember getting the call to say the President was going to see us. At first I didn’t quite believe it, thinking. ‘This is the President of the country. There’s PAGAD, there’s communities. How do you get a man of that stature to take an interest in such matters?"

"He walks in. Of course he is tall, and I hadn’t anticipated that, I mean I knew he was tall, but I hadn’t realised -- being a tall person myself -- how tall he is. He walks in and shakes each and everyone’s hand."

"Then we had the meeting. It was almost like a father feeling the pain of his people and coming to say, ‘It’s okay’. This is the man who is revered by the world and he is able to come to us as a peacemaker, and he holds our hand, and he says, ‘it’s going to be ok’."

"I remember we walked out on the steps of Tuynhuys and there was this photo opportunity. And I’m looking up at him thinking, WOW, I need this picture’. I just remember thinking this is going to be the picture that will be the defining moment in my life."

"If only my grandmother, who I revere as my hero, could have seen me in this moment, coming from where I come from. To be standing next to the most powerful man in the world, a father who cares for his people, and to feel and touch his soul. There was a sense of him being with us, that he is a leader who is with his people."

Gaynor WasserOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Former chair of the Western Cape Anti-Crime Forum, Gaynor Wasser, recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 1997:

"I was part of the Western Cape Anti-Crime Forum delegation that met with Nelson Mandela on 15 October 1997. As leaders of the delegation, we met with him as our President to seek an end to the killings on the Cape Flats between gangsters and Pagad. Our delegation included about 30 different organisations that had expressed concerns about the ongoing violence."

"It was the closest that I have ever gotten to Mandela after seeing him so many times at ANC rallies. Here I was sitting in a meeting with him! Our delegation was already seated when he entered the cabinet room. My knees started shaking and I wondered how I ever will state the demands of the organization that he fires some national and provincial ministers that were responsible for our safety."

"He immediately greeted everyone in the room and I could not forget thinking that here I finally have the opportunity to physically meet this giant, this legend. He shook my hand with complete firmness. I did not want to wash my hand thereafter. We proceeded to meet him and the meeting expressed concerns that we would lose confidence in his ability as president to protect us, if he did not act to help our people."

"On the morning of the 16th I received a telephone call from the Presidency and I was invited to take a helicopter tour with Mandela over the affected areas. I felt so honoured and I knew that he listened to us and took us seriously. In the helicopter I sat back to back with him. It was unbelievable. He had an effect on me that I cannot explain. I could not even eat for the rest of the day."

"During the helicopter tour, we went to Elsies River, Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain. We met the people in these communities and he addressed the people. This showed that he cared about our people. This is the story I will share with my grandchildren and they will hear about it every day."

Soweto String Quartet (1997-01-01)Original Source: To download a photograph click here

Makhosini Mnguni, Thamsanqa Khemese and Sandile Khemese of the Soweto String Quartet recalls the moment they met Nelson Mandela in 1997:

Makhosini Mnguni: "A section of Pretoria station was in a terrific buzz on a Friday morning in September 1997. Traditional musicians and dancers were welcoming passengers of the New-Blue Train. SSQ was to serenade President Mandela and the First Lady as they cut the ribbon and launched the train. I was overwhelmed with the joy when one of the bodyguards called us to take a photo with the president and his wife. I will forever cherish the moment and always remember the thick and warm hand-shake of President Mandela."

Thamsanqa Khemese: "An opportunity arose for Soweto String Quartet to perform at the launch of the Blue Train in Pretoria Station in September 1997. President Mandela and his wife, Graca, were the officials in the ceremony. The moment was so electrifying when I had to stretch out my arm to shake the legend’s hand. It brought fulfilment and happiness to my heart. This could only mean we were going forward because this is the man that we’ve put all our hopes to deliver us from the evils of apartheid. I will always cherish this moment."

Sandile Khemese: "This was the day many would only dream of. This was the day in the far distance the day that would in my thoughts forever. The day had truly come for us to ultimately realise our long-time dream. The day that would see us touch and shake the hand of our father, our icon and our leader. The moment of truth and total fulfilment had finally dawned upon us to experience being with Madiba and entertaining him with our music, which he so loved. He showed how sharp his memory is because he called each member of the Quartet by name. I was truly stunned and felt the love he has for all South Africans was in his blood. I felt so proud to have lived in his time. VIVA!"

Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa (1997-01-01)Original Source: To download a photograph click here

Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa recalls the moment she met Nelson Mandela in 1997:

"My name is Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa. I am a singer from Cape Town. In 1997 I was hired to perform for the farewell party President Mandela party he hosted for his staff -- including domestic and gardening staff -- at the Green Dolphin restaurant at the V & A Waterfront. It was my most memorable gig ever!"

"There was so much excitement around the area of the venue that afternoon before the great man arrived. Security personnel were everywhere. A tired-looking old man in oil-stained, torn overalls was walking past the venue. Security officers shooed him away just as the big metalic blue Mercedes Benz came to halt next to him. When Madiba got out of the car, he went straight to the man in dirty overalls, "How are you?" he asked, shaking the man's hand."

"Inside the venue, waiters were running up and down with excitement. One waiter, who happened to be white, brought his six-month old baby and a camera, positioned himself strategically inside the entrance Madiba was going to use and gave the camera to a barman to take as many pictures as possible when the president spoke to him. He knew Madiba's love for children. True to form, when he walked in, Madiba went straight to the baby,"Is it a boy or a girl?" he asked. The young father was shaking like a leaf when he took his camera back from the barman. "Did you see him talk to me? Did you take pictures? What did I say?" The poor young man was in shock."

"The president shook my hand before settling at his table and I began performing with some jazz standards. When I began the click song Uqongqothwane, Madiba got up and joined us on stage and sang and danced with us. My husband Kwezi Kobus was singing with us. The child in the picture belongs to one of Madiba’s staff. I will never forget that gig for as long as I live!"

Philma ManuelOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Philma Manuel recalls the moment she met Nelson Mandela in 1997:

"My husband died when Trevor was 13 and as a single parent, the years of Trevor’s activism prior to 1994 were particularly stressful for me. He was always either on the run from the Security Police or in detention. I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that the years of anguish would culminate in him being elected as a Cabinet Minister in the Government of National Unity."

"I had never been to Parliament prior to 1997. As the mother of the Minister of Finance I was able to share in his joy when he delivered the Budget Speech every year. He always proudly made the nation aware of my presence in the gallery."

"This picture was taken on the day Trevor presented his first Budget Speech in 1997. To be photographed with a world icon like Madiba, Trevor’s wife and sons on the steps of Parliament was a very proud, yet emotional moment for me. The fact that Madiba just instinctively put his arms around the boys and allowed Lynne to clasp his arm just showed what a warm and loving man he is. The photograph is proudly displayed in my home and will no doubt become a family heirloom."

Mark WileyOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Mark Wiley recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 1999:

"The photo you have sent does have an interesting story attached to it. If my memory serves me correctly it was 1999 and at the height of the urban terror campaign during which the Western Cape was seriously affected. Bombs were going off frequently, assassinations were taking place and the police were not making much headway."

"The Premier of the Western Cape, Gerald Morkel, had been trying to get a meeting with President Mandela for some time to voice his concern and raise the issue of the Western Cape being left to fend for itself against this onslaught. For many months there was no response and frustration between the national government and the only province governed by an opposition party was reaching a crisis of constitutional proportions."

"Premier Morkel left for overseas on an official visit and left Peter Marais as acting Premier. A bomb went off in Cape Town, Marais phones the Presidency and within hours, a meeting with President Mandela is arranged at Tuynhuys. As MEC for Community Safety I go along. It should be remembered that this was also the period when the ANC was keen to put the NNP (New National Party) government under stress by creating divisions within the NNP."

"Here was a golden opportunity and later this approach also led to the ‘breyani meeting’ with President Mandela. Typical of Marais he keeps the President waiting for 15 minutes. Zelda la Grange is furious when we get there."

"The meeting is attended by the Intelligence, Police and Justice Ministers, National Police Commissioner George Fivaz and several other senior police commissioners."

"The reason I am so angry at the packed media conference afterwards is because the President had been lied to by the South African Police Service (SAPS) about the SAPS strength in the Western Cape to combat the terror threat, and also that the overall SAPS manpower strategy was insufficient to combat crime in general."

"I had full go at the SAPS in the meeting and Mr Mandela reached across in a grandfatherly way, patted me on the arm, and said, “We will deal with this”. Shortly after that the policing manpower plan changed dramatically and the Western Cape also got better resources."

Ryland FisherOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Former editor Ryland Fisher recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 1999:

"I was only the second black Editor of the Cape Times, after Moegsien Williams, who had become the Editor of the Cape Argus. In 1999 Moegsien and I decided to invite President Mandela to visit the home of the Cape Times and the Cape Argus, Newspaper House in St Georges Mall, Cape Town."

"We extended the invitation because there was a perception in government about negativity within the media towards the government. We were quite surprised when he accepted our invitation."

"We tried to keep Madiba’s visit as quiet as possible, but obviously, in the newspaper industry, news spreads very quickly. On the day of the visit, most of the women at Newspaper House had had their hair done especially and were wearing special outfits."

"Madiba spent a few hours with us, moving from department to department, including a visit to our printing presses. When it was time for him to leave, we went to the entrance in St Georges Mall, where a huge crowd had gathered. Word had obviously gotten out that Madiba was in our building."

"His protectors had created a barrier for people to stand behind and had pulled his car right in front of Newspaper House. They told the President that he needed to get into the car immediately after we got outside."

"Of course, when Madiba saw all the people, he immediately made a beeline for the barrier, to shake hands and greet everyone with his customary,“Hello, how are you? So good to see you.” I could literally see the bodyguards pulling out their hair."

This picture, capturing part of a special occasion with Madiba, was taken as we exited Newspaper House after his visit and he greeted the crowds in St Georges Mall."

Tony YengeniOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Tony Yengeni recalls a moment with Nelson Mandela in 1999:

"The picture showing me standing behind Mr Mandela was taken in the National Assembly during a session of the house. I do not recall the specific item on the agenda of the house that we were all applauding."

"I was sitting behind Mr Mandela in the picture because that is where I normally sat during sessions of the National Assembly. I was sitting there also in my capacity as the Chief Whip of the majority party, the African National Congress. The main reason why the Chief Whip sits behind the President is to be able to advise the President and guide him on the various procedures and items on the agenda of the house. It is also meant to ensure easy access to the Chief Whip in the event the President requires assistance."

"There are various personalities that appear in the picture the first of whom is President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela himself and sitting on his right is the then deputy President Mr Thabo Mbeki and a number of ANC MPs, ministers and deputy ministers."

"It is a matter of great pride and honour for me to have acted as Chief Whip of the majority Party during Mr Mandela's Presidency. For all my time as Chief Whip I worked very closely with Mr Mandela and his office and it was a great pleasure and marvel to work with this great icon."

"As a leader Mr Mandela was firm, straight forward, principled but humble. I vividly remember one day when he admonished me for having done something that he considered wrong in front of more 500 members of the ANC caucus. I never responded to his criticism at that point. I called a meeting of my study group to explain myself to him. It is only then that he realised that as a matter of fact that I was in the right. And the moment he realised this, he immediately apologised to me and the study group and vowed that the following Thursday he was going back to caucus to apologise to them too. We accepted his apology and thanked him for his humility and understanding and pleaded with him not to go to caucus again because his apology to us was enough. He refused and the following Thursday he appeared in caucus as promised and addressed the meeting and apologised to them and us."

Naledi PandorOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Naledi Pandor recalls the moment she met Nelson Mandela in 2002:

"The photograph was taken in November 2002 outside Poorthuis, the Old Assembly entrance to Parliament. I was Chair of the National Council of Provinces and Madiba had come to visit an exhibition of ancient maps that was part of the Parliamentary Millennium Project."

"The exhibition attracted both local and international attention, because we were exhibiting an old Chinese map, dated 1389, that is now thought to be the first map ever drawn of Africa. Madiba was 84, formally retired, and I was overjoyed that he had accepted our invitation to attend the exhibition opening."

"He took my arm and I led him into Parliament and up into the exhibition room. I remember he asked me probing questions about the maps. He stayed much longer than I had expected; it was one of the most invigorating encounters in all my years in Parliament."

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Former President FW De Klerk recalls a special moment with Nelson Mandela in 2004:

"This photo of President Mandela and me was taken in the Parliament of South Africa on a special occasion – the celebration on 10 May 2004 of the tenth anniversary of South Africa’s new democratic constitutional dispensation. It was a very special moment, reflecting also the friendship which had developed between two former opponents. To me it carries a powerful message of reconciliation."

"In my speech on that occasion, I reminded Parliament of the historic agreements that opened the way to the New South Africa, that averted a catastrophe and that created a new South Africa, offering hope and justice to all its people."

"I urged all South Africans to join hands to tackle economic and social transformation – just as we had joined hands years earlier to tackle the constitutional transformation of our country. I called on them to meet the challenge of bringing real justice and equity to all our people and to make our wonderful country a shining example to the rest of the world."

Graphic designer Abramham Collins recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 2004:

It was in 2004 that I had the opportunity to meet Madiba in his home in Bishop’s Court, Cape Town. I was accompanying Benny Gool, Roger Friedman and Siphiwe Nkosi on a video shoot for Oryx Media."

"I was among the many who only ever saw Madiba on TV and election posters. He was this larger than life icon who I only learned about in my teenage years during the early nineties. It was in my first year of high school that I learned about who Mandela really was and what his release would mean for our country. I never imagined meeting him. It was therefore a very surreal moment waiting for him in his lounge –I didn’t know what to expect. Even though Madiba was older than I imagined and walking with a cane and Zelda’s assistance –he still exuded so much energy with his laughter and smile. As he entered the room I was overwhelmed.I nervously greeted him and told him what an honour it was to meet him to which he replied that it’s an honour to meet me!"

"Benny arranged that we could shoot a pic with Madiba after they filmed a brief interview with him. Siphiwe and I posed next to him in his chair. He jokingly asked how many girlfriends we have. I felt like a small child –nervous and excited to be able to shake the hand of a man who transcends all other living legends. It’s a moment I will always cherish and which made me realize how lucky we are to have had Madiba in our lives."

Richard BransonOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Richard Branson recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 2007:

“I’ll never forget the feeling of inspiration, hope and great joy as Peter Gabriel and I welcomed Madiba to the first gathering of The Elders. As we led him into the meeting, the air was filled with the most magical singing as all the staff from Ulusaba had spontaneously gathered along the path to celebrate the opportunity to be in the presence of this great man. As he sat down and warmly greeted the other Elders, including his lovely wife Graca, Mary Robinson, President Carter, Archbishop Tutu and Kofi Annan, I was reminded how incredibly privileged we were to be listening and learning from one of the greatest human beings of all time."

"As he gave his opening speech, encouraging The Elders to be bold, courageous and always focused on doing what is right for humanity, I realised the great responsibility we had to help spread his unique vision of nurturing leadership through wisdom and love, rather than politics and personal agendas. The following beautiful words from his speech to the other Elders will always remain in my heart."

“Using their experience, their moral courage and their ability to rise above the parochial concerns of nation, race and creed, they can help make our planet a more peaceful, healthy and equitable place to live … This group derives its strength not from political, economic or military power, but from the independence and integrity of those who are here. They do not have careers to build, elections to win, constituencies to please. They can talk to anyone you please, and are free to follow paths you deem right, even if hugely unpopular … I believe that, with your experience and your energies, and your profound commitment to building a better world, The Elders can become a fiercely independent and robust force for good, tackling complex and intractable issues, especially those that are not popular.”

"As the meeting drew to a close there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. What a very special moment in time where Madiba encouraged this great group of leaders to work together to carry on his legacy and vision for a better world. As we led him back to the waiting car he danced with the staff, gave us each a warm hug and then stepped inside the car, rolled down the window and gave us a wonderful smile and wave as he drove off through the beautiful African bush of his beloved country.”

Jimmy CarterOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Former President Jimmy Carter recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela for the first time and again in 2007:

"I first met Nelson Mandela a few weeks after he was released from his long imprisonment. He is a personal hero of mine, and I am honoured to be a member of The Elders, a group established in his honor in 2007. This photograph was taken during the ceremony commemorating that event."

Rayhaan SurveOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Rayhaan Surve recalls the moment he met Nelson Mandela in 2008:

"The water gushes down from the sky, a streak of thunder rolls and lightning lights up the area. People run back and forth searching for shelter. A young boy loses his family and in his search for shelter stumbles upon the glowing face of Nelson Mandela. Kind eyes look at him, lips part and a powerful, but gentle voice emerges, “Come, sit, my boy,” he invites."

"It was August 2008 and I was at the unveiling of the Nelson Mandela statue in front of the Victor Verster Prison with my family. I got to leave school early so that we could drive to Paarl. I remember that we picked up Uncle Kathy (Ahmed Kathrada) on the way there. The weather was very grey and we had hardly begun the ceremony when it started to pour with rain. I was very lucky to find shelter with Madiba and even luckier that Mr. Gool was there to take the pictures!"

"Later that afternoon I played in a music exam and got a distinction. I practiced hard for the exam, but I’m sure there was also some Madiba Magic working. The next day at school the principal told the whole school in assembly that I had met Madiba. Everyone was very interested to know what it had been like. If I have to use only one word, ‘amazing’! I have the pictures framed on my wall to remind me how lucky I was to meet someone who has made such a difference not only in South Africa, but in the world. And a story to tell my children and grandchildren."

Kami Naidoo-PageOriginal Source: To download a photograph click here

Human-rights activist Kami Naidoo-Page shares a poem and thoughts on Mandela:

'The Mandela in each of us.'
In all of us is a flame; unity in a spark;
In all of us is a shimmering light; hope in the dark;
In all of us is the vibrant bond of humanity;
It navigates our soul as a ferry; asking no levy;
Demanding as its only fee, freedom and integrity;
Because the mark of a leader is greatness in humility.
Call him what you like, Mandela, Madiba or Tata;
Search for him as you like, he is not to be found in one person;
Some values surpass the body, living only through unison;
Do not call for Mandela, rather shout for compassion;
Do not look for Madiba, rather search for love and passion;
Do not listen for Tata, instead focus on the soul of every human;
The rhythm of our hearts beating in every man and woman;
The blood of this nation flowing in each us.
This is the lesson to be learnt, and the teacher is wise;
Even with brain and brawn, a person is just a person.
However, bring a million together, add that spark of unity;
And you will find that united we stand, but divided we fall;
And even though each individual flame is not so tall;
Together the fire burning in our hearts can illuminate the earth.

"We should always remember that a man, any man, remains mortal no matter his achievements. His values however, can be timeless, elevated to that higher meaning through our shared existence, our way of life and the manner in which we treat others. That is what Mandela’s message is, no to look up to him, but to inspire ourselves to join the universal values he stands for. As Mandela himself said:"

“One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image that I unwittingly projected to the outside world; of being regarded as a saint. I never was one, even on the basis of an earthly definition of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

Credits: Story

Discover more about Nelson Mandela here

Photography & Video — Benny Gool & Oryx Media
Research & Curation — Benny Gool & Oryx Media

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