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Kamukunji MP: Day Mandela hosted my family

“ I first met Nelson Mandela when he was released from prison in 1990. I was the managing director of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation.

It was his first visit outside South Africa after the release and I was among senior journalists who welcomed him to Namibia.

I did a televised interview on his release and progress after 27 years in jail. I also covered him extensively when he was negotiating with the whites for the independence of South Africa when I later moved there .

As he continued to press for independence, I met with him in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban.

He used to say, “We need to be independent, we respect human rights, we are ready to speak with our enemies, I have forgiven those who persecuted and punished us for many years, we are ready to work with them.”

And he did not also cease saying that South Africa belonged to all, black or white.

I later quit journalism and joined the United Nation. On my first mission with my boss we went to see Mandela at the African National Congress Party Headquarters.

He had been handed the mantle after Oliver Thabo died. When we arrived, my boss started introductions, but when it came to my turn, Mandela interjected and said: “No, this is not your person, he is ours.”

He then pulled me aside and asked when I stopped being a journalist. I explained and he wished me well.

Wedding ceremony

Thereafter we met regularly because I was based in Johannesburg.  I knew Graca Machel from Mozambique and attended her big wedding ceremony to Mandela.

Mandela was very sharp; he would not forget people so easily and would address them as if they were friends he had known for a long time.

He actually one day referred journalists to me so that I could address them on refugee issues during a press conference. I was working with the UNHCR .

And then there was a time he wanted to meet with my children. Two of them, my boy and girl went to visit him together with other children. He sat with them and even took some pictures. He addressed them as his children.

He was a generous, kind and never greedy. As the world mourns Mandela, my wish is for leaders to follow in his footsteps and make the nation a better place.”

As told to Bernadine Mutanu