YOU (South Africa)
THE PREZ’S BIGGEST FAN
No cartoon heroes for this little girl – she idolises South Africa’s first citizen
FOR almost a year the little girl had been dreaming of meeting her hero: President Cyril Ramaphosa. She posted videos on social media and wrote letters with her mom’s help, begging the country’s first citizen for a meet-up. Mehran Dildar of Isipingo near Durban is such a fan she even had the president’s face on her birthday cake. But the months crept by and still no Ramaphosa – until one day the phone rang.
On the line was someone from the president’s office saying Ramaphosa knew about his No 1 fan. The representative told Mehran’s mom, Fatima Yacoob Dildar, that the president had seen some of her videos, read reports about her and would be honoured to meet her.
“I thought it was a hoax,” Fatima says. “I researched the name and credentials of the caller before I accepted it was legit.”
It was – and on 15 April little Mehran’s wish finally came true. “It was one of the best days of my life and I’ll never forget it,” the four-year-old tells us a day later.
Mehran, who wore her best pink dress, brought along a few goodies for the president in a gold gift bag. “She also took a mug that read, ‘Dear President Cyril Ramaphosa, thank you for making my dream come true. Love, Mehran Dildar’.
“He knelt to her height and read it out loud,” Fatima says. “He expressed his gratitude by saying, ‘Wow, that’s wonderful, thank you so much’.”
Mehran also gave him a cake bearing the SA flag and the words, “Thank you for making my dream come true.”
UNLIKE many little girls her age, Mehran doesn’t have pictures of her favourite cartoon character on the walls of her bedroom. For her there’s only one superhero: Cyril Ramaphosa, and his face beams down on her every time she steps into her room.
She started idolising the president after seeing him address the nation about the Covid-19 crisis.
“I love that he speaks to the people of
SA,” Mehran tells YOU. “He kept us informed during coronavirus. He seems like he really cares and is trying to help us.”
Taking inspiration from Ramaphosa, Mehran started making videos urging people to take the pandemic seriously.
“She talks about Covid-19 issues and matters that affect children,” her mom says. “She often scolds adults when she watches the news and hears they’ve been misbehaving. Parents message me to tell me how Mehran has inspired their kids.”
The little girl is part of a family of five kids that consist of a brother and two sets of female twins – Mehran belongs to the younger set.
Fatima says Mehran’s siblings are her biggest fans. “My son, Zidaan, always stands by her side telling her how well she’s doing and her sisters love getting her dressed. On several occasions I found Mehran videoing her sisters and teaching them how to do videos too.”
But nothing could prepare the family for what happened after posting the videos online. That call from the president’s office came like a bolt from the blue, Fatima says – but after she’d confirmed it was genuine, it was all systems go.
Two days before the meet-up, Ramaphosa’s security team visited Fatima and her husband, Eidris, to brief them about what would happen. Fatima didn’t tell Mehran or their other children about the meeting, to avoid any security breaches.
On the day of the meeting Fatima told Mehran she was going for a radio interview. “And Mommy told me the president was going to be on a video call,” Mehran says. “I didn’t know I was actually going to meet him.”
But when they arrived at the venue at the Port of Durban, Mehran knew straight away what was going on. “She was shocked and excited and when she walked in and saw him she screamed, ‘My president!’ ” Fatima says.
He welcomed Mehran with open arms and encouraged her to pursue her dream of becoming SA’s first female president.
“He was so calm and patient with her. He asked her name and age and why she was here. She responded, ‘I want to be a leader like you, but a girl president’.”
Mehran hasn’t always been this bold and outspoken, Fatima tells us. “She used to stutter really badly. I started some speech therapy at home and used to make her speak in front of the mirror.
“I decided to record her so she could watch the videos afterwards and see how she could rectify her speech on her own.”
After watching numerous recordings Mehran, who can now control her stammer, started using her mom’s phone to secretly record herself saying inspirational things. Fatima then decided to post the encouraging messages online and the little girl has since gone viral.
Mehran now hopes her story will inspire other youngsters. “To all the boys and girls out there: remember to follow your dreams and believe in yourself,” she says. “Dreams can come true.”