Meeting Mandela: memories of joy and despair

 Doris Malinga, a 70 year-old resident of Kliptown, Johannesburg recounts her memories of Nelson Mandela.

Seventy year-old Doris Malinga remembers more than one version of her first meeting with Nelson Mandela. She describes each with such faithfulness to the joy and the despair of the experiences that you can hardly dispute that both ‘first times’ really did occur. A case of Madiba magic? Perhaps.

“uMandela ngamthintha kwathi ngakusasa kwakhona ngawina… angazi besi dlalani ngaleso skhathi… (short pause) Oh ya! Amahashi! (joyous guffaw) Lapha eTurfontein. Ngawina”. (I touched Mandela’s hand, and the next day I won … I don’t remember what we were playing in those days. Oh yes! Horses! In Turfontein. I won.)

Standing between the side buildings and the main hall of a now mostly empty Regina Mundi Catholic Church, in a sliver of brave sunshine, Doris Malinga recounts her experiences of Nelson Mandela as if watching them flicker across the screen of memory for the first time. Mandela banner2

“Bagcwele amambhunu la ngaphandle, sabalekela la eRegina Mundi. Silele ngezisu abokhile amabhunu nezinja ngaphandle… 1976!”. (A lot of Boers where outside, we ran and hid here in the Regina Mundi church. we lay flat on our stomachs while the Boers waited for us outside with their dogs … 1976!)

This past Sunday, three days after Mandela’s passing, Doris attended a service at the church dedicated to the late, great statesman.

In a corner to the right of the pulpit, a large wood-framed portrait of grey-haired “Tata” leaned against the wall, watching as joy and despair rippled through the congregation dressed in powder-blue and others in deep-purple uniforms.

Doris said pride rose up inside of her as she sat in the pews and listened to the pastor speak of Mandela’s life and work.

Her own path to this famous church, she said, was paved in the black, gold and green colours of Mandela’s ANC.

[pullquote align=”right”]”I’m going to wear ANC because Mandela saved us when the Boers were after us.”[/pullquote]

She explained that years after the days of seeking refuge away from apartheid police in the church, she eventually “gave herself to Roma”, at around the same time as Mandela’s release from prison in 1990.

A thumb-and-pinky telephone helps her explain why she came to the service dressed head to toe in ANC regalia rather than the required uniform of a long-time member of the congregation.

“Namhla angeke ngigqoke ijoin mina (Today I’m not going to wear uniform),” she said re-enacting her conversation with a fellow member. “Ngizogqoka iANC ngoba uMandela wasi kipha amabhunu asigijimisa. uMandela ngiyamgqokela (I’m going to wear ANC because Mandela saved us when the Boers were after us. I’m wearing this for Mandela).”

So proud of her outfit, Doris insists on the “best” picture being taken of it adjusting it with bright-coloured cloths and scarves from a seemingly bottomless black plastic bag at her side, to obtain a verisimilitude with the reverence she expresses.

Doris Malinga remembers the times she met Nelson Mandela. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

Doris Malinga remembers the times she met Nelson Mandela. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

A little later, with a gift of two queen cakes and a styrofoam cup of sherbet-orange juice, Doris recalls the other version of her first encounter with Nelson Mandela.

“I had two sons. One was an ANC member. Both died during apartheid. One was shot near Orlando Station by police on his way back from school … The other was killed near Kliptown. His body was thrown into that river (the Kliprivier).”

One of her late sons left behind a young boy-child, whom Doris raised. He is now 20 years-old.The previous proud overflow of joy slows as despair tinges Doris’s voice.

She remembers a day when she knocked off work in town and went to collect her grandson from a near-by daycare center. She took him to Luthuli House, the ANC headquarters on Sauer street, where Mandela was addressing a large crowd.

“Bengimuphethe emahlombe. Kugcwele kuthe! uMandela wambona. Wamuthata wambekha emahlombeni akhe. (I had him on my shoulders. It was jam packed. Mandela saw him. He took him and hoisted him onto his shoulders).”



Down Vilakazi street with the sons and daughters of Mandela


In living colour: A portrait of late president Nelson Mandela on a side-walk inVilakazi street, Soweto, Johannesburg.                                                                                                  Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Nelson Mandela’s former home on the famous Vilakazi street in Orlando West, Soweto, was a powerful  magnet today, attracting hundreds of people hoping to celebrate the life of the former president and pay their respects to the late icon.

Although entry into the pristine red-brick house, now a museum, was temporarily barred, many people milled around its gates taking pictures, signing messages on a large portrait of Mandela hanging from the fence. Visitors also laid flowers and lit candles at a steadily growing memorial under a sign reading “Goodbye Tata.”

ANC Mkonto weSizwe Miltary Veteran’s Association (ANCMKMVA) member Oupa Mabe, who first met Mandela on Robben Island in 1987, described the atmosphere as “ambivalent” while struggle songs rose up from the streets outside Mandela’s former home.

“People are having mixed feelings about this … Others are sad and others want to celebrate. If you say we should be sad then you are trying to undermine the contribution of a legend, what he has left for us a unifier and as a great leader.”

Mabe, dutifully signing coordinating the signings of the large portrait-print of Mandela and handing out markers to children eager to pen goodbye messages to the late president, recalled that the first thing Mandela said to him on the first day of his 28-year sentence: “Young man go and learn. Go and educate yourself so that one day you can lead.”

Former press secretary for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Rose Nkosi, echoed Mabe’s sentiments as she haggled with a vendor over the price for a book of portraits of Nelson Mandela.

“I am disturbed as our father has passed away.” Nkosi said despite this sadness that we were feeling, Mandela’s passing was an opportunity to renew faith in the principles, especially education, which he lived for.

Rubbing a hand over Mandela’s face on the cover of her newly purchased book, Nkosi said the written word and pictures provided a powerful tool for teaching future generations about the man and his “dedication to education”.

Letlogonolo Mogapi, a Unisa student from Pretoria, dedicated her pursuit of an engineering degree to Nelson Mandela.

“If it was not for Mandela we would not even be in school right now… [pullquote]Ga ne re gola, if you were black, it was either you studied nursing or you were a teacher.[/pullquote] You would never find an engineer back then. He was not struggling for freedom [alone] he fought for education and we thank him for that.”


Teach One: Letlhogonolo Mogapi and Thutelo Refilwe came from Pretoria to say goodbye to Mandela.                                                                                                                                                                    Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Even as the rain clouds gathered and threatened to unleash another violent Highveld storm, the singing and dancing in celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela continued on Vilakazi street.

OBITUARY: Nelson Mandela

Mandela banner2Nelson Mandela has died.

South Africa’s first democratic president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate passed away last night at 20:50 at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg at the age of 95.

Madiba, or Tata as he is affectionately known by many South Africans, had been treated for a recurring lung infection since June.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 at Mvezo, a small village in the former Transkei.


He attended the Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape and then ran away to Johannesburg in 1941 to escape an arranged marriage. While in Johannesburg Mandela obtained his BA degree through correspondence university and then enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand for a Law degree. Mandela was the only African student in the Law faculty at the time. In 1944 he, along with notable figures and activists such as Oliver Tambo, William Nkomo and Peter Mda formed the ANC Youth League.

He, along with his life-long friend Oliver Tambo opened the first black law firm in South Africa, called Mandela and Tambo in 1952.

During his time as a political activist fighting against the injustices and cruelties of the apartheid system, Mandela was banned, arrested several times and sentenced to imprisonment for acts such as treason, leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike. [pullquote align=”right”] “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity”[/pullquote]

Rivonia Trial

Mandela was tried for sabotage in 1963 in the trial that became known as the Rivonia Trial. In his mitigation speech in 1962 Mandela said on the liberation, “If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man”.

In 1964 he was sentenced to life, along with Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and others were  sent to Robben Island Prison. Mandela served 27 years in prison, serving most of the time on Robben Island, before he was released on 11 February 1990.

Road to Democracy 

In 1991 he was elected as the new ANC president and voted for the first time in his life on 27 April 1994. Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black and democratically elected president on 10 May 1994. He only served one term as president but continued with his humanitarian activities and his vision of South Africa’s rainbow nation.

“Madiba”, as he is/was known by his clan name, had received almost 700 awards, including honorary awards. Many institutions, street names and foundations have been named after the peace icon.

Honouring an icon

Mandela’s funeral is expected to be attended by state leaders and other global icons. Before the burial his coffin will lie at the Union Buildings in Pretoria for the next ten days where the public can pay their respects and say their final goodbyes to their “Tata”, the father of many nations. Thereafter he will be laid to rest in Qunu, his home town in the Eastern Cape.

Mandela is survived by his wife Graca Machel,  his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, six children, 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Mandela himself regarded death as an inevitability and said in 1994 that “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity”.

But his thoughts on life at the 90th celebration of Walter Sisulu in 2002 were: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”.

The Passing of Tata Nelson Mandela: A tribute from the University of the Witwatersrand

Nelson Mandela received an honorary doctorate from Wits University. Pic: Wits University.

Nelson Mandela received an honorary doctorate from Wits University. Pic: Wits University.

Nelson Mandela’s alma mater, the University of the Witwatersrand released a statement early this morning to pay tribute to one of it’s greatest students. 


The University of the Witwatersrand extends its deepest sympathies to the friends and family of former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the father of our nation and an international icon, who passed away on Thursday, 5 December 2013 at the age of 95. May his soul rest in peace.

Founding president of democratic South Africa, Tata Nelson Mandela changed the world as we know it. He has left a legacy that will benefit and inspire generations to come. He set an example for the rest of the world and created history on his journey through life.

We must celebrate his humility, his principles, his commitment to justice, peace and freedom during this time and we must never forget the values for which he fought so hard and for which he was prepared to die.

Tata Madiba, we walk in your footsteps, we are guided by your principles, and we live by your humanity. You are with us today, and your contribution as an alumnus of our University, as a fellow South African, as a comrade, and as the father of our young nation, is etched in history, and will live on forever.

You were of us, but you belonged to the world. You lived amongst us now, but your legacy will inspire for eternity.

Hamba Kahle Tata – You are in our hearts.

Professor Adam Habib
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University if the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg



Wits Vuvuzela: Farewell Nelson Mandela. December 6, 2013.

South Africa wins for Mandela

Unite4Mandela: Supporters at the FNB Stadium in Soweto during the Bafana Bafana soccer match

Unite4Mandela: Supporters at the FNB Stadium in Soweto during the Bafana Bafana soccer match. Photo: Caro Malherbe

The Nelson Mandela Sports and Culture Day at the FBN stadium in Soweto saw both the Boks and Bafana Bafana play to victory.

The stadium was a alive with #humanspirit as a diversity of South Africans came to show their support for the two major national sports teams. Dressed in green and yellow, supporters came flooding in from all walks of life. The feeling was that no matter what the outcome, uniting together for a common purpose was a win for us all.

Not only did South Africans unite for their love of soccer and rugby but  the day was in honour of tata Mandela #Unite4Mandela, the man who represents unity itself.

Bafana Bafana vs Burkina Faso

A sea of South African flags was seen and vuvuzelas heard as Bafana Bafana came running onto the field, ready to take on Burkina Faso.

With a score of 2-0, Bafana Bafana set the mood for the rest of the day. With so many fans cheering and encouraging our team, Burikina Faso did not stand a chance.

Man of the match, Siphiwe Tshabalala, scored the first goal in the first half and Luyolo Nomandela scored in the second half.

[pullquote align=”right”]This win helped fans regain their belief in Bafana.[/pullquote]

Coach Gordon Igesund said he hoped that the team will be able to carry on with the trend for their important match against Botswana on 7 September.

FNB Stadium: South Africans came from all walks of life to show their support.

FNB Stadium: South Africans came from all walks of life to show their support. Photo: Caro Malherbe

Springboks vs. Argentina

The amount of stadium goers doubled when the Springboks vs. Argentina game kicked off.

Playing their first game of the Rugby Championship Test series, the Boks brought the heat when they annihilated Argentina with a score of 73-13.

After the first half, it was clear that it was going to be an easy win. Although the Pumas held on by the skin of their teeth and showed fighting skill, they could sadly did not manage to beat the sterling team.

The Springboks showed great discipline by receiving only four penalties to Argentina out of the 16 handed out.

It was raining tries for the Boks while the roaring cheers from 50, 000 audience members gave the Boks even more steam for domination.

The team held the Nelson Mandela Sports and Culture Day Cup high as they celebrated their massive victory and Adriaan Strauss was named man of the match.

Springboks: Argentina stood no chance against the persistent Boks. Photo: Caro Malherbe

Springboks: Argentina stood no chance against the persistent Boks. Photo: Caro Malherbe

Bafana Bafana Legands vs. Italian Legends

The first match of the day was played by the SA Masters who lost 2-0 to the Italian Legend.

The Bafana Legends were the team who won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996, two years after the first free and fair political elections in South Africa. The team played on Saturday in honour of the man who made it all happen.

After the sport, supporters were treated to some culture when the stadium became alive with music from some of South Africa’s top acts. Kurt Darren, Elvis Blue and Toya Delazy were some of the musical icons who performed and got the stadium rocking.

All proceeds from the day will be going towards building a new Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.

The day was a mammoth affair for all South Africans across the country and was a great example of how far we have come in the fight for freedom and unity.

Halala: War cries could be heard all around the stadium. Photo: Caro Malherbe

Halala: War cries could be heard all around the stadium. Photo: Caro Malherbe

[Updated with Video] Witsies celebrate Mandela day

CELEBRATIONS broke out yesterday when students and workers of the university gathered on the Great Hall steps to commemorate Mandela’s 95th birthday.

Close to 1000 people of the university circled around the Bambanani Brass Band from Alexander, who played for the choir of people that sang happy birthday to our “Tata”, as South Africans lovingly call him.

The band consisted of ten members which entertained the crowd by playing trumpets and drums. The band also danced a choreographed pantsula piece to add to their performance. The Brass Band also sang a hymn and got the crowd involved through clapping their hands.

The Wits choir also made an appearance where they took centre stage a sang happy birthday to Madiba with the crowd. It was a nostalgic moment for some as seen on people’s faces when they wished the father of our nation, by closing their eyes.

Cleaners were in abundance and students could be seen among them singing and clapping their hands in joy as the band played vibrant sounds through their brass instruments.

Witsies celebrated this special day which is International Mandela day by joining in and participating in acknowledging the legacy that is Madiba.

People also seemed to be extra for filled by the celebrations that Mandela is still alive today, despite many days of anxiety around his health, people indulged celebrating his life as well.



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