‘Madiba was my life …’

2013-12-14 00:00

“FOR three years, Tata Madiba was my life. If I can, I would like to drive him to the grave.”

Corporal Thando Mangxangaza (30) was speaking yesterday in the hearse that he has driven to the Union Buildings and back each day of the lying-in-state.

He has already started to wonder how he will go on with his job without the man who has been like a grandfather to him.

There has only been time for tears behind the scenes, because he has been in the world’s eye behind the wheel of the hearse on its slow progress through Pretoria’s streets.

Mangxangaza, who was born in Kokstad, is an operational medical orderly who has been part of Madiba’s round-the-clock care team.

He had to watch as the old statesman slowly lost his grip on life. But it was the best three years of his life, which he would not exchange for anything.

“Tata preferred older medical personnel and always called me ‘young man’. He never used my name. He called me ‘Tokyo’. He called another medic ‘Billy’. It seems we reminded him of former times,” he said.

“When I found out three years ago that I was going to join the team looking after him, I got tears in my eyes. I didn’t believe that I, a kid from Kokstad, would get such a privilege.”

As a member of the “Charlie team”, he was present with the doctors and nurses when Mandela died last Thursday evening.

“When I drove him to 1 Military Hospital, the whole freeway was empty and I started to really realise he had left us.”

The responsibilities of this week have been sombre. “The night before I drove him to the Union Buildings for the first time, I couldn’t sleep, because I had the hearse key in my pocket. I was so scared I would oversleep and then Tata would be late.”

In the hearse, Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, sat in the passenger seat, speaking quietly to his grandfather.

“Then I also spoke to Tata in my mind.”

He said he and the other carers always spoke to Madiba, right to the end.

“When Chief Mandla and I were driving him to Pretoria the other night, the air-conditioning was on and I thought he would get cold and ask for a blanket to cover his knees.

“And then I realised he would never ask for a blanket again.”

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.