‘Unpredictable’ Madiba kept bodyguards on their toes

2013-12-09 10:35

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nelson Mandela was a difficult man to protect, says one of the first bodyguards the former president had after his release from prison.

Mzwandile Vena (57) from Qunu, who is now a businessman based in Johannesburg, said because of his love for people and children, Madiba would order his driver to stop the car so he could greet people he saw next to the road.

“We would be in the cars behind him and suddenly when we see his car stop, we were on high alert and anxious. And we would jump off our moving vehicles only to find that tata wants to greet children playing along the road or some folks,” Vena said.

He said the period between 1990 and 1994, when he was Madiba’s bodyguard, was hectic because they attended many rallies and Madiba was in demand all over.

The security risk was as great as he was in demand, Vena said.

“Madiba would always do the unexpected. You had to be alert all the time. A choir would be singing at an event and without any warning he would just get up from his chair and join the choir. We were forced to improvise all the time.

“He was such a humble man. He did not see himself as better than other people but as the same as everyone else,” he said.

When Madiba was at a function he would refuse to eat or leave the function if his bodyguards had not eaten.

“He would ask us, calling you by name: Mzwandile, have you eaten? At times we had to say yes even if we had not eaten because he would make a big deal out of it and we would be late for the next meeting,” Vena said, adding that they worked from 6am until midnight.

He said wherever Mandela went, the reception was overwhelming.

“At the rallies we went to, particularly here in the Transkei, people would go ballistic, trying to touch him. It was as if Jesus had arrived. He brought so much hope with him. As his security team, we had to be vigilant. If something had to happen, we said: not under our watch.”

Vena recalls how they would be scolded by Madiba when they disrespected PAC leader Laurence Makwetu.

Vena said Madiba, who died at his home in Houghton on Thursday evening, would gently ask Makwetu to sit next to him and apologise for the way his bodyguards behaved.

“He had so much respect for opposition leaders. He was not petty. He was above party politics all the time,” he said.

Vena, who is now a businessman and farmer in Joburg, attributes his success to Madiba.

“He opened doors for us all over the world. He levelled the ground for us. People from across the globe want to do business with South Africans because he restored confidence in this great nation. May his soul rest in peace, he was truly a man of a special type,” Vena said.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.