The lit­tle girl who stole the heart of a mighty states­man

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013 - NONI MOKATI

IT WAS HER adorable lit­tle doc­tor’s out­fit that stole the hearts of many in­clud­ing the me­dia. Cam­eras clicked and she looked on clutch­ing a packet of crisps in her hand.

That was five years ago when Michai’ah Si­mons, then 23 months old, sat on Nel­son Man­dela’s lap at the tree plant­ing cer­e­mony of the Nel­son Man­dela’s Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.

Yes­ter­day her mother Ali­son broke the news to the now sixyear-old girl that her hero was no more.

“She was a bit un­set­tled when she heard the news. But her mother re­as­sured her that Tata is now in a bet­ter place where he can rest in peace. Where he can no longer ex­pe­ri­ence hard­ship,” said her fa­ther, Kevin Si­mons.

He shared the story of how her daugh­ter landed up by Man­dela’s side.

His mother in-law had been asked to pre­pare the func­tion for the plant­ing of the tree to cel­e­brate the planned hos­pi­tal.

Var­i­ous chil­dren had been in­vited to mark the mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion.

“The or­gan­is­ers were giv­ing out doc­tor’s out­fits to the kids. My wife hap­pened to pick this spe­cific one for Michai’ah. Some­one took her and placed her on Madiba’s lap.”

To­day the fam­ily has placed the pic­ture in most of the rooms in their house. They have also cut news­pa­per clips.

“We feel hon­oured as her par­ents that at a young age she has learnt a great deal about Man­dela. She now knows that she has to take his legacy for­ward,” her fa­ther said.

Michai’ah said: “He freed us from apartheid. I’m go­ing to miss him. I am happy that I met him.”

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

‘GREAT HON­OUR’: Talk-show host Oprah Win­frey with Nel­son Man­dela from an episode of The Oprah Win­frey Show that orig­i­nally aired in 200. Win­frey posted a photo of her and Man­dela to In­sta­gram and said one of the great hon­ours of her life was to be in­vited to Man­dela’s home.

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