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Thomas Kantha
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I sat with Madiba

09 December 2013, 08:13

                          I sat with Madiba.

 The photos are fading, the story is old, but I will never forget the experience.
It was just after Madiba was released from prison and was making his world pilgrimage to countries that stood up  against apartheid.

 I was part of the anti- apartheid movement in Japan but focused around Asia. There were  just two South Africans involved in this movement . There was Mr. Jerry Masila from the ANC and myself. We spoke from slightly different platforms. I mixed politics with education and welfare of women and children.
The ANC announced that Madiba was coming and we were asked to form a committee to welcome him  a few months later.  The eagerness to get it off the ground was astonishing.

The place to have Madiba speak was at the Ogishima Park swimming pool. About ten thousand people can fit in the arena.I was one of the stewards in charge of what was happening around Madiba. At the first glimpse of Madiba, the people went wild . He was the super star. He did not come with a tragic story of pity and hatred but with a positive message to lead the country into  the family of democratic countries. The sound of African music and the atmosphere, I am sure, lingered long after people returned to their homes.

 Madiba and party had to travel back to Tokyo . They were booked on the Shinkansen . I met some of the   South Africans who were travelling with Madiba. I joined them at the VIP waiting room at Shin Osaka Station. The VIP waiting room is a mini hall. When I got into the waiting room one of the members who was travelling with Madiba pointed to me and told Madiba I was one of the boys from home who helped organize this event. Madiba was sitting far from the door and he got up came and took me by the hand to sit with him. I was humbled. 

“Where are you from?”  Was his question to me and I told him, “Tongaat” .

He broke into a smile and said, “Tongaat and the people in Tongat took care of me. I am grateful.”

He asked what I did and I explained that I worked for the betterment of women and children.

“What do you do?” He asked. 

“I support the mentally and physically challenged.”

“We have a back to school program for those who gave up education for liberation.”  he added.

He held me by the hand all the time as if I was a little boy and spoke in a tone that was soothing.

After about fifteen minutes a lady came into the room and some called over to Madiba.  She told him who she was and I stood up to direct her to Madiba but he told me to sit and he stood up and went to the entrance and escorted her by the hand to sit with us. I have been fortunate in my simple life to have met kings, queens, princes,  princesses and  politicians but of all of them Madiba stands out  with his over pouring humility. When the lady stood up to say her goodbyes we stood up together and walked her to the door. Madiba turned around and asked me if I was also going to Tokyo with them and I said I was not but I so much wanted to go. Our talk was not a conversation between a world famous hero and a volunteer but just  a father to son chat.

He used the word Ubuntu. Now I wonder how many people who use Madiba really follow is path of Ubuntu. From a far I can see how some people lost their Ubuntu to power.  Somehow power stole their Ubuntu. May be I am the lucky one, that the South African political Gravey Train did not stop to pick me up. Yes, I sat with Madiba, Yes, Madiba held my hands , Yes, I drank  orange juice with Madiba in a train station waiting room. Yes, I was humbled by the warmth and reception I received . Yes, the photo of me sitting together with Madiba, hand in hand, is fading.  But what an experience!  

All this happened on Sunday October 18th 1990 IN Osaka Japan

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