Treasured PMB Madiba keepsakes

2013-07-06 00:00

CELMA Croudach went to a lot of trouble to get her T-shirt commemorating Nelson Mandela’s inauguration signed by the man himself.

In 1994, the then Natal Witness had the commemorative shirts printed, with the front page of the paper emblazoned on the front. Croudach, who was thrilled that the country was finally free, bought eight T-shirts.

“I sent them to my friends who had emigrated out of South Africa to say ‘Look! We are free!’ I kept one for myself and I have never worn it,” said Croudach.

A few months after she bought her shirt, Croudach heard that F.W. de Klerk was in Pietermaritzburg at the Cascades centre. She went there to get the shirt signed: “I just walked up to him and he signed it. I didn’t see any bodyguards, nobody restrained me.”

Getting Mandela’s autograph was not so easy. After many attempts, she had to rely on a friend to help her secure her hero’s autograph, three years after buying the shirt.

“I really had to work hard to get Mandela’s signature. I could never get within 200 metres of the man. I tried to get it when he went to Hilton College years ago, then again at the 1995 or 1996 Comrades Marathon. Eventually, when he received the freedom of Pietermaritzburg in 1997, I gave the shirt to the Msunduzi PRO at that stage, Cynthia Harvey-Williams.

“I said ‘Look Cynthia, I’m writing a cheque for the Mandela Foundation and I’m giving you the pen and you make sure he signs it’,” Croudach said.

Croudach entrusted her shirt to Harvey-Williams as she was out of the country when Mandela arrived in Pietermaritzburg: “She [Harvey-Williams] thought that the only place Mandela would rest, and which would be safe, would be in the Mayor’s Parlour, so she put the shirt, cheque and the pen there, and [he] went to rest there and he saw it and he signed it.”

As soon as Croudach returned to SA, she called Harvey-Williams to ask about her shirt and was elated that it was signed. She also bought the 1997 commemorative T-shirt of Mandela receiving the freedom of the city.

Even though she has not met him, Croudach is happy to have been in his presence: “Mandela is my hero. He changed so many lives and set us all free. It is very sad that he is ill, but he led a good life.”

Being a municipal worker in the city’s disaster management section, Croudach draws inspiration from the speech Mandela made on the day her shirt was signed: “He told us to rise to the challenge and to work together to take care of our city.”

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