Helen Lechmere-Oertel's Tribute
It was early 1994, and Mandela came on a pre-election visit to Ingwavuma on top of the Lebombo range, in northern KwaZulu. His helicopter landed on the Mosvold Hospital airstrip and after the rally he went to have tea with the hospital superintendent Dr.Ross and company. I was a teacher,23, at Ingwavuma High at the time and stayed with my friend Bridget Walters (co-founder of Nansindlela Primary)- we lived in the hospital house next door to Dr.Ross. Well, we were besides ourselves with excitement that MANDELA was next-door, and then we were invited over to meet him in person before he left. As I shook his hand I remember being struck by his commanding height and dignified presence, he asked my name and I said 'Helen' and he smiled and said 'as in Helen of Troy' and I mumbled something about my mother being a Latin and classics teacher. His unrushed handshake was strong and I'll never forget the deep kindness in his smiling eyes. Meeting Mandela, albeit so briefly, was a great honour and I was humbled and in awe, and I remain that way to this day. Madiba is one of the world's greatest leaders and a truly remarkable man.
Added 1 decade ago