Nelson Mandela 1918 – 2013

nelson mandela

Meeting Nelson Mandela in a mini skirt

When the Black Journalist Association in the UK called to invite me as a journalist to meet Nelson Mandela in 1990, on his first visit to the UK after he was released from prison, I was a poor freelancer, working from home. We had a slim time slot, before he had a meeting with UK business heads in Central London when forthright thinking journos like Joel Kibazo (who worked for the FT at the time) made this possible.

What should I wear – I was in a mini skirt and my first thought was, I can’t meet Nelson Mandela in a mini skirt – or jeans – but it was the opportunity to meet him that afternoon or not meet him at all. It could be my first and last chance to meet him.

There were just a handful of us, lining up, waiting to shake Nelson Mandela’ hand, that was all we could expect. He shook all of the hands of the Black journalists who like me, dropped what we were doing and just ran! Then it was home – back to my typewriter – and from that momentous event, I developed a new way to shower – for 3 days I didn’t wash my right hand.

I met Joel a couple of months ago at an event at the Mayor of London’s office; he didn’t remember me, but he, and his colleagues have always had my endearing thanks for having the insight to organise that briefest of meetings.

I did have a second opportunity to meet him! In 2004 opportunity to meet him, when I organized the Literature aspect of the Celebrate South Africa festival, as a celebration of the support of the UK supporting ANC when Madiba was imprisoned. Sadly, literature was the last programme to be included and I wasn’t invited, but I have since been comforted by the fact since that that I had the insight to buy a limited edition of a leather bound signed copy of The Long Walk to Freedom published by Little Brown. Still a poor freelancer, it took me more than a year to pay for it, but I didn’t care. If I had the money, I would have bought more, so I urged friends to buy it instead – one did – and one friend I owed money too, I replaced the hard cash buy buying her the book instead.. Like my ‘Mandela shaken hand’ it’s far to precious to touch though!

I can’t say anything else that people have not already said, already written, already quoted – all we can do is use the existence and memory of a great man to continue his righteous beliefs, and continue to pursue his dream of World Peace. It’s a possible Dream.

Thank you for the love and your legacy of love Madiba, RIP

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