Meeting Mandela

Nelson Mandela

By Hazel Farber

It must have been about 1993 – not long before the elections. 

I had gone to the airport to meet Denis Goldberg who was returning to South Africa for the first time since his release from prison.  I arrived at the then Jan Smuts International Airport to see masses of press and photographers waiting at the arrival hall and I went to stand near the front, so I wouldn’t miss Denis.  There was one flight arriving from Germany and one from London. 

Madiba was on the Lufthansa flight.  He came through the gates with Winnie and they then disappeared upstairs to the press room.  Eventually Denis came through (literally being the last one out).  When he came through, he asked me if I wanted to meet Madiba.  What a question! Of course I said YES. 

He took me upstairs and he introduced me to Nelson and to Winnie.  It was such an overwhelming moment.  He shook my hand and said a few words.  All I remember was what a tall man he was, and his hands were large and he had a very firm handshake.  The whole thing appeared so surreal. 

Denis did take a photo but unfortunately it never came out. 

What a wonderful experience!

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