Man­dela – man of mana

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

Nel­son Man­dela charmed New Zealan­ders with his mana, smile and mes­sages of thanks dur­ing his only visit here as Pres­i­dent of South Africa.

There was for­give­ness too af­ter the All Blacks had for years vis­ited South Africa and hosted re­turn Spring­bok tours, de­spite wide­spread pleas to cut rugby ties with the apartheid regime.

Man­dela told lead­ers of the anti-apartheid move­ment on his 1995 visit that they had cho­sen to speak out when it was less fash­ion­able to do so.

‘‘You elected to brave the ba­tons and pro­nounce that New Zealand could not be free when other hu­man be­ings were be­ing sub­jected to a le­galised and cruel sys­tem of racial dom­i­na­tion.’’

Those ac­tions had helped bring con­sen­sus among New Zealan­ders.

‘‘In time, this na­tion and its gov­ern­ment could stand tall as one of the most com­mit­ted sup­port­ers of the anti- apartheid cause,’’ Man­dela said.

Ac­tivist John Minto, who was an or­gan­iser for the Halt All Racist Tours move­ment, met Man­dela in Auck­land.

‘‘One of the things he said was that when he was in prison in 1981 and they heard that the [Spring­bok tour] game [against Waikato] had been stopped by protest, all the pris­on­ers rat­tled their doors through­out the jail and he said it was like the sun came out.’’

Dame Cath Tizard, gover­norgen­eral at the time, re­called Man­dela had told her ‘‘he would never for­get the day the game at Hamil­ton was called off’’.

His pres­ence dom­i­nated the Com­mon­wealth heads of gov­ern­ment meet­ing held in Auck­land and Queen­stown in Novem­ber that year.

Dame Cath said it was a ‘‘mar­vel­lous and mem­o­rable’’ plea­sure to host him at Gov­ern­ment House.

‘‘It’s very hard to de­scribe, but the man just car­ried such mana,’’ she said.

‘‘Peo­ple al­most treated him with rev­er­ence. He was a very hand­some, pleas­ant man to deal with.’’

‘‘When I went out and met him at the air­port, we were in­tro­duced and he asked, how shall I ad­dress you? I said, for­mally as Your Ex­cel­lency, but my name is Cath- er­ine. He put his arm around my shoul­der and from there he called me Catty.’’

‘‘We feel truly wel­come,’’ he told about 3000 peo­ple at Tu­ran­gawae­wae Marae in Ngaru­awahia. His visit there was the high­light of his trip.

‘‘ We feel truly wel­come and among our own brothers and sis­ters,’’ he said.

To be a guest of Maori was a great hon­our.

‘‘As a peo­ple who have known de­pri­va­tion, we do ap­pre­ci­ate your ef­forts to redeem a past of dis­pos­ses­sion and so­cial dis­lo­ca­tion that colo­nial­ism has wrought on your com­mu­nity.’’

His ar­rival at the marae was greeted by hun­dreds of chil­dren from lo­cal schools and ko­hanga reo lin­ing the road out­side. Many clutched palm leaves to wave at the mo­tor­cade.

In­side the marae he was treated to a tra­di­tional Maori wel­come. Ob­vi­ously moved by the event, Man­dela nod­ded in un­der­stand­ing as Western Maori MP Koro Wetere ex­plained the pro­ce­dure, NZPA re­ported.

The of­fi­cial party, which in­cluded Man­dela’s daugh­ter, Ze­nani Man­dela Dlamini, po­lice, and South African news me­dia, were met on the meet­ing house veranda by Tuwhare­toa para­mount chief Sir Hepi Te Heuheu.

In a sur­prise ap­pear­ance be­fore more than 250,000 peo­ple at a fire­works spec­tac­u­lar at Auck­land Do­main, he brought the crowd to its feet.

‘‘You make us feel at home in the world,’’ he said as the crowd roared its ap­proval. ‘‘For that we thank you, and we thank you again.’’

The po­lice of­fi­cer in charge of es­cort­ing Man­dela’s del­e­ga­tion in Auck­land said the South African pres­i­dent had been greeted with an al­most re­li­gious fer­vour ev­ery­where he went.

’’There was no one in the mo­tor­cade who wasn’t hum­bled by the ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ Sergeant Sandy Beck­ett said.

’’The first thing he did each time he got into the car was shake hands with the driver – he was a charis­matic char­ac­ter.’’

Wellington pho­tog­ra­pher Si­mon Woolf spent time with Man­dela in 1995 and found the ex­pe­ri­ence life-chang­ing.

‘‘Over those 4 1/2 days I think I was lit­er­ally pick­ing my­self up from be­ing up­lifted and him be­ing so hum­ble prob­a­bly dozens of times. There you have a man that’s been in such ad­verse sit­u­a­tions and he’s turned it into a pos­i­tive and there didn’t seem to be any mal­ice, he was just mov­ing on.

‘‘ And there was a guy that would give every­body qual­ity time, it didn’t mat­ter who they were. He also didn’t pri­ori­tise his time in re­la­tion to who the per­son­al­ity was. If the prime min­is­ter was greet­ing him and there was a lit­tle boy at a bar­ri­cade, be­cause he’d met the prime min­is­ter two days be­fore he’d go over to the boy at the bar­ri­cade. And no­body minded. It was very up­lift­ing. It was very amaz­ing to see.’’

In 2002 New Zealand’s prime min­is­ter He­len Clark made an emo­tional and long-awaited po­lit­i­cal pil­grim­age to the Robben Is­land prison off Cape Town, where Man­dela was kept for 18 years.

‘‘I’ve al­ways wanted to come here and see it,’’ Clark, an an­ti­a­partheid pro­tester in ear­lier years, said stand­ing out­side the small, bleak, grey cell where Man­dela slept on con­crete floors.

‘‘It’s un­be­liev­able that a hu­man be­ing could spend 18 years in this cell. When I saw Man­dela some days ago, he said look­ing back on it he couldn’t un­der­stand him­self how he spent 18 years in this cell, un­der just in­cred­i­bly in­hu­man con­di­tions,’’ she said.

‘‘But I think what is amaz­ing is that it never broke his spirit, and that’s the tri­umph of the story out of here – that the men walked out with their heads held high.’’

Minto said there would be ‘‘wide­spread sad­ness’’ in New Zealand at Man­dela’s death.

He was the ‘‘glue’’ that held South Africa to­gether amidst ‘‘enor­mous un­rest’’, and his legacy pro­vided more ‘‘ more op­por­tu­nity to speak out and fight for bet­ter so­ci­ety’’, he said.

Fair­fax NZ

Man of the peo­ple: Nel­son Man­dela vis­its Tu­ran­gawae­wae Marae in Ngaru­awahia, 14 Novem­ber, 1995.

Or­a­tor: Nel­son Man­dela speaks to the con­gre­ga­tion at St Paul’s Cathe­dral in Wellington.

States­man: Nel­son Man­dela in Wellington.

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