March 8 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, December 7, 2013
As the world mourns Nelson Mandela, people in Norfolk who had the honour of meeting him have been remembering the South African hero.
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.