People in Norfolk remember meeting Nelson Mandela

David Hill shaking hands with Nelson Mandela. Submitted David Hill shaking hands with Nelson Mandela. Submitted

Saturday, December 7, 2013
7:27 AM

As the world mourns Nelson Mandela, people in Norfolk who had the honour of meeting him have been remembering the South African hero.

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Ralph Gayton meeting Nelson Mandela. SubmittedRalph Gayton meeting Nelson Mandela. Submitted

South African president Jacob Zuma announced yesterday evening that Mr Mandela had died peacefully, surrounded by family.

Norwich city councillor and former mayor Ralph Gayton first met him at a reception during one of his visits to this country following his release from Victor Vorster prison.

He said: “I shook hands with him and we exchanged a few brief words of welcome.

“Later, in May 1993, as national president of Nalgo I received a call in my office in London asking if I would like to meet Mr Mandela.

“Of course I said yes and dropped everything to go immediately to his hotel room.

“I was able to present him with a certificate of honorary membership of Nalgo awarded to him many years earlier.

“We had written to the apartheid South African government every year asking them to release him from prison so that he could attend the conference and be presented with his certificate.

“He was impressed, and somewhat amused and he accepted the certificate with pleasure.

“In many ways it was an overwhelming occasion. Just what do you say to a man who had endured 27 years’ imprisonment in such terrible conditions as he and many of his comrades had suffered?

“What was incredible was that despite all that he had suffered he bore no rancour at his treatment and his humanity and concern to work for peace and reconciliation in his country came through.

“Despite all the pressures on him, he made us feel that his meeting with us and our conversation were most important to him.

“He was a truly great man in the very best sense of that term who has set the world an example of all that is best in human endeavour for justice and peace.”

David Hill worked for Eastern Counties Newspapers in the 1960s. The former Norwich School pupil and Norwich City fan moved to South Africa and still lives in the country.

Now 68, he’s a former editor of the Cape Town Argus and the Cape Community newspapers.

He said: “I was privileged to meet and shake hands with Nelson Mandela twice: once at a conference of independent newspaper editors at the Table Bay Hotel at the Waterfront.

“He congratulated us on launching a new newspaper for the black townships called Vukani (meaning “wake up”) which was published 50pc in English and 50pc in Xhosa (his home language).”

Mr Hill met him again at their offices in Newspaper House in Cape Town.

He added: “There was huge excitement in the building and staff gathered in corridors and on the stairs to get a glimpse of him.

“I was introduced to him by our managing director. He said ‘Hello, how are you?’ - with that way of speaking which placed the emphasis on the word ‘you’ - and then spotted a pretty woman behind the bar and joked with her. Rest in peace, Madiba.”

Roger Haywood, from Happisburgh, met Mr Mandela at an Amnesty International reception in London.

He said: “For years I had been active in the arena of human rights and a few years earlier my public relations company had won the contract to support and promote Amnesty International.

“I was just one of many invited to talk to him and, to my utter astonishment, he greeted me: “Thanks for all the help, Roger, and everything you and your team are doing.”

“I was not even sure he knew who I was and thought that maybe an aide had whispered in his ear a few seconds before we met.

“But something I did observe at that informal meeting was that he knew the names of everyone he met and what they had been doing. I only played a tiny part and I hope it made even a tiny difference.”

Pay your tribiuet to Nelson Mandela: write to the letters editor, Norwich Evening News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, NR1 1RE, including your name and address.

PANEL on Mandela

South Africa’s first black president spent nearly a third of his life as a prisoner of apartheid, yet he sought to win over its defeated guardians in a relatively peaceful transition of power that inspired the world.

As head of state, the former boxer, lawyer and inmate lunched with the prosecutor who argued successfully for his incarceration; he sang the apartheid-era Afrikaans anthem at his inauguration and travelled hundreds of miles to have tea with the widow of the prime minister who was in power at the time he was sent to prison.

It was this generosity of spirit that made Mr Mandela, who died yesterday at the age of 95, a global symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation.

His stature as a fighter against apartheid and a seeker of peace with his enemies was on a par with that of other men he admired - American civil rights activist Martin Luther King and Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi.

13 comments

  • Well said, John Bridge, many people would agree with your comments

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    blister

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • What a turnaround it was only in the 1980's politicians were calling for this man's neck, now they want flags raised to half mast in his honour.

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    John L Norton

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • I'm just struggling to understand the link between Nelson Mandela dying and East London being a bit of a dive.

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    Capac Raimi

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • Nothing but nothing, excuses the murder of innocent women and children, shame on some of you!

    Report this comment

    Old Long Balls

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • Well "Mr Bridge " , 300 years ago there would have been an ancestor of yours complaining about the Huguenots destroying the social structure of East London . A hundred years after that he would be claiming the influx of Jews from eastern Europe was causing " meltdown ". Then it would be the Irish , then the Bengalis , then the Bangladeshis , then Pakistanis were the trouble....who next are you going to blame ?. Throughout it all east London has survived , thrived , civil war has not broken out ( despite the efforts of Mosley and his modern day equivalents ) and people in general get on remarkably well with each other.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • What will you be remembered for John?

    Report this comment

    Capac Raimi

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • I don`t know if John L Norton has the right to the moral high ground or not but I believe I do. My birthplace of East London is now a cesspit with all social infrastructure in meltdown, vast numbers of British people feel enormous resentment about what has happened and continues to happen to THEIR cities, this bad feeling is not going to go away. This constant puke inducing crawling to Mandela is about politicians trying to look good, in reality they could not care less, like most of the British people .

    Report this comment

    John Bridge

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • Capac Raimi, politicians ignore the British peoples fears over nutcase demographics but are queuing up to appear politically correct regarding Mandela. I can see why you think my comments are somewhat tenuous but what goes on are all acts from the same play at the theatre of lies and treason that is British politics.

    Report this comment

    John Bridge

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • Lets also remember the terrorist who prior to incarceration was involved in something like 156 acts of violence which ended the lives of many people including children.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • Of course John you are in the perfect position to take the high moral ground. You live in a democracy where you can sit safely at home posting anti-government views ( under a variety of names ) with no fear that the security forces are going to crash your door in and drag you away into the night. You are not going to be arrested for your views , tortured in prison , routinely beaten and abused because of your colour , have trumped up charges brought against you , denied basic democratic rights you take for granted , and if you peacefully protest you and hundreds like you will not be gunned down in the streets by the police.

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    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • Capac Raimi, I will try not to use the `P` word again. Angry? Frustration more like, do we really believe that the politicians crawling out of the woodwork paying homage to Mandela actually mean what they say?

    Report this comment

    John Bridge

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • There is never a justifiable reason for the slaughter of innocents, NEVER!

    Report this comment

    Old Long Balls

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

  • What exactly is it that you're angry about man? And do you really need to use the term 'puke' quite so often?

    Report this comment

    Capac Raimi

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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