JournalismPakistan.com December 6, 2013
I had the privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela in an elevator in Cape Town when the Khaleej Times sent me to South Africa to track the changeover from the apartheid era to a more equal one in racial terms.
Couldn’t find him. From Jo’burg to Durban to Cape Town the ANC kept him well hidden from anyone who was a guest of the government. I remember meeting Chris Hani, his able assistant (later assassinated) and telling him to please try and make a contact.
Zoubi. Nothing. Then I am swimming in this recently desegregated pool and realize I need to make a call, so I quickly change and rush to the elevator and what do you know, it is Mr. Mandela with two bodyguards going up to the top floor to address a white ladies’ tea party. I stammer and I stutter and explain it has been 10 days chasing him and he gives me that gentle, patient trademark smile and says well, if you have come from Dubai then we must talk but first you will have to go through the party with me…and he laughs. We all laugh. He has the ladies all atwitter as he charms them for over an hour.
Later, we shoot pix from a toy camera which KT publishes the next day and we talk after tea and even then, his was a persuasive voice of reason, even though Robben Island and 26 years behind those bars was frighteningly fresh.
In my wallet were photographs of my daughters and he signed them both with love for Nandini and Priyanka.
Weird. Only last night we were talking about it, about how other people would have framed them and we don’t even know where they are and aren’t we stupid, little realizing that Invictus was slipping away.
A great memory. One of the nuggets of my career.
What a life. What a man.
They called him Madiba…his Xhosa clan name or Tata as in the Father…and he was that and much more.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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