Walking along with Madiba

2013-07-13 00:00

CAPE TOWN — He put his hand up when others were “too scared”, and thus was Marcus Griebelaar granted 12 years at former president Nelson Mandela’s side.

Capetonian Griebelaar was Mandela’s ­bodyguard in the Western Cape from 1994 and a driver who accompanied him on trips abroad.

“I saw the world with Mandela, but it was in Qunu that I saw him at his happiest,” he said this week.

“Every visit and holiday in Qunu, he always walked across the N2 to his children’s graves. He would stand there, hands behind his back, deep in thought. It was as if he was speaking with them. It almost felt like sacred ground.”

He said he only remembered two visits to Mvezo, where grandson Mandla Mandela has his great place and a museum. “His place was at Qunu”.

Griebelaar told how he and other bodyguards had to accompany Mandela on walks at 4 am.

“He walked a lot, kilometres, and mostly with his hands behind his back. Sometimes he teased us and said: ‘You’ve got to keep up, men’.”

In 1996, Mandela visited Griebelaar’s home in Grassy Park to see his newborn daughter, Meagan.

“After about an hour we had to go, and it looked as if there were about 3 000 people in the street outside. He asked me, ‘Markoes’ — that’s how he said my name — ‘where do all these people come from?’ I said news travels fast here.”

One night in a hotel in Tunisia during a visit, Mandela asked Griebelaar if he could cook phutu.

“I was amazed, because I didn’t know how, but I asked some of the other guards who made him some pap.”

Griebelaar said sometimes as he drove Mandela along De Waal Drive in Cape Town, he would see him looking out across the sea to Robben Island.

“He didn’t talk about it much, but he did say he had beaten Robben Island.”

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