Bay char­ac­ter’s Man­dela meet­ing


A true Ti­tahi Bay joker will be re­mem­bered this Christ­mas, on the first an­niver­sary of his early death.

Dan Peo­ples died in Mozam­bique last De­cem­ber 23, af­ter slip­ping on rocks while fish­ing.

He had lived in South Africa for sev­eral decades, spread­ing his par­tic­u­lar brand of hu­mour.

Fam­ily and friends re­call his brush with Nel­son Man­dela, the glob­ally loved for­mer pres­i­dent who died last week.

Hav­ing en­dured a months-long me­dia whirl­wind af­ter be­ing re­leased from Robben Is­land prison in 1990, Mr Man­dela de­cided to es­cape for a week.

Mr Peo­ples had just moved to South Africa and was work­ing as a chef at the Bon­gani Game Lodge, where Mr Man­dela de­cided to stay.

He was as­signed as Mr Man­dela’s per­sonal chef for the week.

One morn­ing Mr Peo­ples gath­ered all the keys he could find, be­fore knock­ing on Mr Man­dela’s door and rat­tling the keys.

‘‘ Se­cu­rity jumped out, guns drawn, ask­ing Dan what he was up to,’’ friend Harold Wed­lock re­called.

‘‘Just try­ing to make you feel at home, Nel­son,’’ Mr Peo­ples replied.

Nel­son Man­dela laughed and in­vited Dan in to cook his break­fast, Mr Wed­lock said.

‘‘Only a Kiwi boy from Ti­tahi Bay could have got away with this.

‘‘They de­vel­oped a great rap­port dur­ing Nel­son’s stay.’’

One night Mr Man­dela was cold and Mr Peo­ples gave him a new pair of Norse­wood tramp­ing socks he fished out of his pack.

‘‘Let’s hope that Dan is once again cook­ing for Nel­son,’’ Mr Wed­lock said.

Mr Peo­ples’ brother Bill, who now lives in Taranaki, said such anec­dotes were typ­i­cal of a man who lived his life to the full.

‘‘He lived a won­der­ful, won­der­ful life. He was a spe­cial guy and that’s help­ing us ease the pain of los­ing him.’’

Born in 1959, Mr Peo­ples at­tended Ngati­toa School, Ti­tahi Bay In­ter­me­di­ate and Mana Col­lege be­fore train­ing with his brother Bill at the Cob­ham Court butch­ery, where the in­for­ma­tion cen­tre now stands.

He then trav­elled widely, be­com­ing a chef and meet­ing his fu­ture South African wife, Claudia, in Lon­don.

Af­ter set­tling in South Africa, Mr Peo­ples started a cater­ing busi­ness, be­came a gum tree farmer and had two chil­dren with Claudia – Liam and Jenna.

He had the gift of the gab, loved the out­doors, and climbed Rus­sia’s high­est moun­tain three years be­fore he died.

Another brush with celebrity came when Mr Peo­ples met the Dalai Lama in Ti­bet, his brother said.

Mr Peo­ples found it a hugely spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence and, de­spite be­ing a butcher, nearly be­came a veg­e­tar­ian.

‘‘ We soon talked him out of that,’’ Bill said.

Spe­cial bond: Ti­tahi Bay man Dan Peo­ples and Nel­son Man­dela in the early 1990s.

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