tribute doc bikitsha

I was deeply moved when ANC leader Nelson Mandela recognised my ageing face after 27 years in prison.

After all, I was only a troublesome junior reporter when I last saw him. And the only time he seemed to notice me in the old days was when he used to give me a mouthful for arriving late at meetings.

Since the great release, I had desperately wanted to meet Mr Mandela, the mystical man who had the world on the doorstep of his humble four-roomed Orlando house. But with more than 1000 journalists on the list for appointments, my chances of a meeting were slight. So with butterflies fluttering in my belly, I decided to try the back door. I joined the crowd and hoped for the best.

It was not long before I thought my number was up. In front of me stood a young ANC marshal whose task it was to keep the throng at bay. But just as he ordered me to turn around, I caught the Man’s eye ... or did he catch mine? After all those years, Mr Mandela recognised me instantly and asked the marshal to let me through.

My heart went wang!

Smiling gently, he said: “Nice to see you again.” And he took my trembling hand into his huge warm palm.

That was about all he had time for, but it was enough.
(1990)