Madiba touched all of us, changed us and made us to be more human. His presence, strategic vision, compassion and simplicity have all been spoken about. But having been so fortunate to have been at his side on many, many occasions, what struck me too was how humble he was. With visitors he would stand up and serve them coffee, tea or juice. He would ask each visitor if they wanted a biscuit or piece of cake and then would personally serve them, making them feel comfortable.
Three specific moments out of the many moments I had with him at rallies, meetings and just waiting for helicopters or in his hotel stand out in my mind.
Firstly, everyone talks about Madiba and the Rugby World Cup. Well I was fortunate to be with him in Ezakheni on Youth Day just before the rugby finals. He stood up before a crowd of over 20000 poor, racially oppressed black South Africans, held the Springbok cap in hand and told these young people that they must embrace reconciliation with their oppressors. None of those youngsters would have attended or probably even seen the Rugby World Cup. But Madiba knew that greatness was about embracing your oppressor, leading them away from their racism and discrimination. This showed his courage to speak the unspeakable, telling the most oppressed amongst us to be bold and show white South Africans that the ANC’s core values were to build a society which was humane and in which everyone was to be treated equally.
The second occasion was when we were between a meeting in Durban and another in Hammarsdale and on the way stopped for lunch at my house in Westville. We cooked more chickens than ever the night before and around 50 ANC comrades, including Madiba, turned up. He was unbelievably gracious, serving himself and talking to Felicity, Andrea and Warren as if they were his own family. He asked Andrea and Warren for Rooibos tea and when making it they remarked with surprise that he wanted Afrikaner tea! He again wanted everyone to be comfortable and some days later personally thanked me again for having had him and the leadership to lunch.
Finally, together with Dumisani Makhaye we both had the privilege to be asked by the ANC to organise the media for the 27 April 1994 elections. We did not tell the media where the vote would occur and instead told them to assemble at the ANC’s office around 4am. We then took them in buses to Ohlange early in the morning. We had set up the ballot box at Ohlange and I then practiced as if I was Madiba voting so that the media could focus their cameras. When the time came and Madiba arrived I was one of the luckiest persons alive to be at his side when he voted.
These are but some of the moments with Madiba that the ANC gave me and made me realise how lucky we are to be South Africans. He touched us all, made us feel human and committed us to creating a humane, nonracial, nonsexist, democratic and united South Africa. He remains in all of us.
Madiba has lived in all of us and he will always be with us.
Long live Madiba, our President forever.
Dr. Michael Sutcliffe
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