Madiba at 94
||22 July 2012 07:00
Carol Albertyn Christie
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
Graça Machel: "On a daily life we don't think of an icon. No! He is the husband, he is the father, and of course we know him when he is happy, we know him when he is unhappy. Some times when he doesn't want to be disturbed by anyone he is moody."
[Archive] Nelson Mandela: "My wife and I."
Graça Machel, partner and wife for the past 14 years of the world's most celebrated icon knows what it's like to share her man.
Graça: "We couldn't know we would be blessed to have 14 years together. So every year, we hope to have another one."
Bongani Bingwa (Carte Blanche presenter): "And how is he?"
Graça: "He is doing very well... very, very well. Actually, for what he was generally last year, he recovered in a remarkable way."
And it's here in Qunu, the small village in the Eastern Cape where Mandela was born 94 years ago, that he has come back to live with Graça.
Graça: "It's like closing the cycle of life: he was born here, he grew up here, and for his peace of mind it meant a lot to come back home."
Bongani: "And what are still his favourite foods?"
Graça: "(laughs) You know, in this area he used to go with other boys and they used to pick up gooseberries and until today, give Madiba gooseberries and you'll see him smile. And of course he enjoys all the others, but that connects him also to his childhood."
But even here in Qunu the Mandela magic is irresistible and never more evident than this Wednesday on Madiba's 94th birthday when media, friends, family and celebrities all descended on the village.
Bongani: "What did he enjoy most on his birthday?"
Graça: "Having his children, but most especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren around him. That's what really gives him joy. And as we speak now, he is with little ones in the lounge, making noise and running around him. And remember Madiba didn't have... for 27 years he didn't have a family life. So this is extremely meaningful for him to have his family and to enjoy them in a private environment like this."
It's a birthday that has become synonymous with South Africans taking 67 minutes or more of their time and doing something, however small, for others.
Graça: "Whoever has come with this idea of the Mandela Day - I think that's the best. You see the movement around the country where people take the time to identify someone who is close to them, who needs a shelter. They identify a hospital where manpower is not sufficient - they go and help and we implement that principle that 'I am because you are and you are because I am'."
Zelda le Grange (Bikers for Nelson Mandela Day): "This is also obviously a very personal thing for me. This is what I did with Madiba in the last 18 years. So he's really taught me the model of how to improve other people's lives, how to touch other people's lives, so it is a tribute for me to him and giving back all the indescribable privileges that I've had over the years."
For Zelda le Grange, Mandela's long term assistant and friend, his impact has been huge right from the first day she met him.
Zelda : "He shook my hand and I started crying and having the feeling of guilt a bit for sending him to prison so long... my people sending him to prison so long. So it was very emotional and I took some time to compose myself and he said, 'Calm down, it's not that bad,' and he immediately made me feel at ease. He spoke to me in Afrikaans, as you know, so it was quite an emotional day."
Zelda's pet project is 'Biker's for Nelson Mandela' day which has a group of celebrities and biking enthusiasts spending around a week travelling through rural areas of the country doing community service along the way. A major sponsor of this year's ride was Auto & General.
Carl Louw (Senior Exec: Auto & General): "So many things are done in big cities and people in cities benefit from this. These guys out here in the rural [communities], they don't get all the spoils, and it is important for us to be a part of that and follow big initiatives like Bikers for Mandela and looking at how we can give back to the rural communities."
And among the celebrities who came along for the ride was DJ Fresh.
DJ Fresh (Radio host): 'You're doing what you love, making a difference and hopefully raising awareness all in one. But I think most importantly you are saying to communities, 'We are going to help you jumpstart a project; we are hoping you can sustainably keep it going so that you can help yourselves'."
But today is also about a little school in Qunu and the gift of a library container.
Bongani: "Now Moscow Primary is a nondescript school with two buildings. It's in the middle of nowhere and yet, because of the name Mandela, today it has attracted some of the most influential people in the world."
Bill Clinton (42nd US President): "When I think about Mandela I always think about someone committed to the future... Not to the past - the future. And the embodiment of the future are all these children here."
Former US president Bill Clinton came with daughter Chelsea and a whole lot of books to open the new Library Container that was donated to the school. But this is not an isolated visit.
Bongani: "Its diplomacy 101 that the South African president has to get along with his international counterparts, but the friendship between Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela has lasted long after both men have left office. In fact the 42nd President of the United States has made it a point to show up for Nelson Mandela's birthday every year since he left office, with one or two exceptions."
Bill: "I've made it all but three... Twice when Graça asked me to stay in America and work for the Foundation, and once when my wife was running for president... otherwise I've pretty much showed up here."
Graça: "It's very important that you find a friend who is so loyal and who is so personal. It doesn't have to do really with the big things the world think of them. No, this is a very personal relationship. So we appreciate the fact that this year we are not in Jo'burg - he could have had a very good excuse not to come, but he made sure that he comes to Qunu and he spent a day with Madiba. This is so great!"
Zelda: "They are very fond of one another. Whenever you mention President Clinton's name Madiba's face just lights up. He's very fond of him."
Bongani: "How is Madiba?"
Zelda: "I spent some time with him yesterday - he looks healthy. But he's happy and strong and really that's all that matters."
While the crowds invade Qunu for Madiba's 94th, he made no public appearances. His birthday celebrations were for family and close friends like Bill and Chelsea.
Bill: "The important thing about Madiba's life is... and the reason South Africa is whole today... is that he was willing to share the future even with the people who imprisoned him."
Mandela might have finally retired from his very public retirement, but he has passed his torch of reconciliation to people all over the globe - from international leaders to people like you and me - and his birthday, Mandela Day, is an annual reminder.
Graça: "Honestly I don't think any one of us can quite tell the impact of Madiba on the world. Each generation needs a symbol, a person who embodies values that generation would like to be identified with. And he comes to be the one. It's very rare to have a person who, from his small village, to the nation, to the whole of the continent of Africa... but in every continent of the globe Mandela is known, is loved, is revered... that's very rare."
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.