Remembering the day I met Nelson Mandela

Dikarabo Ramadubu - BG reporter
Friday, 20 July 2018
Remembering the day I met Nelson Mandela

It is true that the best education one can get is to travel. This is exactly what happened to me during a recent weeklong educational trip dubbed 2018 Durban July Mega hosting of SADC countries.

There was no dull moment on any day, as we travelled a lot and slept in different top hotels. But day 5 remains indelible in my mind as this is the day I had to remember one of the world’s greatest icons and the first democratically-elected black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. On this day, we visited the historic Mandela capture site. Without doubt the place has enormous significance because it is where he was captured and his long walk to freedom was interrupted for 27 years on the R103, the old main road about 5 kilometres outside the town of Howick on his return to Johannesburg.

Mandela was arrested on 5 August 1962, when he disguised as a chauffeur for Cecil Williams in what clearly shows he was sold out- this was 17 months of going underground. Records show to this day, it is not clear who could have been the informer, but certainly there was a tip off from a well informed person.Mandela was arrested after meeting with the ANC president Chief Albert Luthuli to report to him on the financial and military progress he had gained during his tour of some African countries.I first met Mandela when he came to Botswana subsequent to his release during a press conference at the old studios of Radio Botswana. During that day, I asked him two questions, being, is the Patriotic front in the agenda of the ANC and if it is, which parties will the ANC involve and for what reasons. And how does the ANC expect to share power with National Party when the ANC accuses the NP of orchestrating violence in the black Township?

Instead of answering me, Mandela looked me in the face and asked me what did you say your name is? This sent shivers down my spine. I felt like hiding and regretted that moment, but bravely put up my face and said Dikarabo sir. He followed with showers of praise on me saying that is a beautiful name and good questions too. To be honest, I never heard the answers to my questions as I was busy celebrating to have been given credit by a great man like him.

The next time I met Mandela was during the Gaborone Trade Fair. On that day, Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano was the guest speaker, but for whatever reason, Mandela decided to visit Gaborone in order to meet with him and the late President Sir Ketumile Masire who was the SADC chairman. On that day, I was on an assignment, but Mandela recognised me once again.Years later after his demise I got to realise that Mandela spirit still lives. It took an invitation and a partnership sponsorship between Tourism KwaZulu- Natal and Air Namibia and my employers who gladly release me for a well planned weeklong working holiday to KZN Province.

I have been to Mandela’s house 8115 Vilakazi Street in Orlando West, but did not experience the same feelings as I had when walking on the freedom path to the sculpture composed of 59 steel poles designed by Marco Cianfanelli. The capture site is one place to visit by all; it is an amazing site having started as an ordinary monument composed of a stone which captures the history of how he was arrested. But the present structure has completely changed thanks to the brains of one artist Marco Cianfanelli who gave it a facelift through his design and made it one of the most interesting sites to come across.   Records show that Cianfanelli created this national monument to mark the 50 years anniversary since Madiba’s capture.

The monument is made up of 50 steel columns and stands at about 9 metres high. The monument represents the momentum gained in the struggle through symbolism of Mandela’s capture, but they also suggest the idea of solidarity. It points to an irony as the political act of Mandela’s incarceration cemented his status as an icon of struggle, which helped to ferment the groundswell of resistance, solidarity and uprising bringing about political change and democracy. It was freezing cold on the day of our visit, but that could not deter us from gaining the experience and being counted amongst those who stepped their feet here. It started with a brief of the site by the tour guide, and then we went inside the small house which tells a great history of Mandela in prison and other leaders such as Oliver Reginald Tambo through pictures.

I could not resist taking pictures along some of the huge portraits displayed in there. Then having fully understood the history of how he was captured, it was time to walk the path to one of the most amazing sculptures ever designed. Make no mistake once you enter into the pathway, it is just about walking to the sculpture for snap shot! No, on each side there are some iron boards carrying history of what happened in each year of the 50 years since Mandela’s capture just across the road. Having now toured the freedom park or capture site, it was time to go, but not before I could call our South African counterparts to join me to sing a few freedom songs which all black children both local and abroad used to sing whenever it was time to pursue and, or continue with the struggle. Amongst the songs were Siyaya I Petori and, Oliver Tambo…….. All in all this experience caused me to remember Mandela, the question is when will you the reader want to share this experience?

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