12 July 2018

South Africa: He Was the Most Impressive Person I Had Ever Met

analysis

Once I raised the concerns with Mandela, explaining that he was working too much. I expected him to tell me to mind my own business. He just smiled and said, 'You must understand that I have over 20 years to make up.'

I first met Nelson Mandela at the Namibian Independence celebrations in Windhoek in 1990. It was the one thing the Anti-Apartheid Movement got wrong. We assumed that Namibia could not be free until the South African apartheid system had been defeated.

The stadium was packed and as the ceremony got under way, the cry "Mandela is here" swept through the evening air. Yet he was nowhere to be seen. Eventually he was spotted sitting in the back row.

After the ceremony was over there was a rush to get out of the stadium where Mandela was found sitting in his car totally unable to move because his vehicle was boxed in by people on all sides.

I fought my way through the scrum to the front and introduced myself and asked Mandela why he was not sitting among the other dignitaries at the front. He replied:

"This is Namibia's...

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