A platinum or gold plastic card usually creates these feelings but not like the photograph of me meeting the country’s most revered and respected leader Nelson Mandela.
The photo has been a fantastic talking point during a recent trip to South Africa for Indaba the countries high profile Tourism trade show in Durban. It is the biggest travel and tourism trade show in Africa and the third largest tourism marketing event in the world.
The Zulu word Indaba means coming together to discuss matters of importance and in the mind of all South Africans, there is no man more important in the history of their country than Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela or “Madiba” as he is known, the first black nationalist and President of South Africa (1994-99).
Eyes light up and respectful smiles come over those who view the photo of Mandela and me whether they are black, white or coloured, the feeling of love and admiration captures the esteem in which this great man is held.
“Is that you? I would love to shake his hand, you are so lucky, where was it taken they ask”.
It was taken in 2000 in Sydney when I was media managing a conference at which he was the keynote speaker. Named “What makes a champion”, it was a Sydney University initiative that encompassed many academic and sporting hero’s from Australia and overseas. The photo was taken as I was explaining to him the format for the presentations. Photographers then and now are always instructed never to use a flash when taking photos of Mandela which would aggravate his eye sensitivity to light, the legacy of his years in prison spent working outside in the glare.
Many of South Africa’s iconic sites are named after Mandela including the huge square at Sandton in Johannesburg which features a towering brass statue of the man.
Born July 18, 1918, Umtata, Cape of Good Hope, his negotiations in the early 1990s with South African Pres. F.W. de Klerk helped end the country’s apartheid system of racial segregation and ushered in a peaceful transition to majority rule. Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993 for their efforts. He attended South African Native College (later the University of Fort Hare) and studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand; he later passed the qualification exam to become a lawyer. In 1944 he joined the African National Congress (ANC), a black-liberation group, and became a leader of its Youth League. That same year he met and married Evelyn Ntoko Mase. Mandela subsequently held other ANC leadership positions, through which he helped revitalize the organization and oppose the apartheid policies of the ruling National Party.
From 1964 to 1982 Mandela was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town. He was subsequently kept at the maximum-security Pollsmoor Prison until 1988, when, after being treated for tuberculosis, he was transferred to Victor Verster Prison near Paarl. After all those years Mandela did not hold a grudge, kept a positive attitude and kept working to improve relations between South African people. Now in ill health many South African’s are concerned at what might happen when the 93 year old passes on. If he was younger he could become an ambassador to improve our conflicted world. Nelson Mandela has certainly made an indelible impression on me and the photo and time I spent with him will remain a cherished memory.
Written by : John Savage