13 December 2013
Residents in Qunu, the tiny village in the Eastern Cape that Nelson Mandela always called home, this week shared their memories of the former president, recalling how humble he was and the excitement they felt when meeting the world’s most admired leader.
Mthobeli Jaji met Mandela when the former president visited a local school in Qunu in 1998, and for Jaji it was a moment that he has cherished forever.
“He was very humble. I remember he actually shook my hand and asked for my name. I found that to be very humble,” Jaji said. “From that day, Mandela forever represented more than a leader, he was a father figure to me. That is how Mandela will be remembered.”
School teacher Mzobanzi Gxobolo said his first “Madiba moment” was when Mandela visited the museum in Qunu several years ago.
“That day I was seeing him for the first time, he was wearing one of his trademark shirts,” Gxobolo said. “Even though I never got close to him, the humbleness he displayed when he was interacting with people struck me. I was with my son and I still remember the excitement he felt seeing Madiba.
“My second Madiba moment was when I saw him in Mthatha at an event,” Gxobolo said. “That day I managed to take a picture with him, and that picture now hangs on my wall. It’s something I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
For a 20-year-old Walter Sisulu University student who did not wish to be named, her moment with Madiba was when he opened a school in Qunu.
“I happened to attend [the school] and he came on this day to officially hand over the school,” she said. “I was in the school choir and while we were singing, he joined us and started to dance. All of us were so excited. After that, we took a group picture with him. It was a very exciting moment for all of us.”
Asanda Nkwani, who works at a nearby service station, recalls when she and her friends ran after a convoy transporting Mandela to his residence.
“He waved at us, but a policemen stopped us from coming closer. But when he smiled and waved at us, it was a moment when I felt I have met him and that he really touched my heart.”
Eighty-seven-year-old Mantombi Mbewu said that, although she never met Mandela personally, a framed portrait of him in her living room will always be her Madiba moment.
“It’s been hanging there for years and there is not a single day that I don’t look at it. For me, he is part of my family.”