Minnie's Madiba moment

By Drum Digital
08 December 2013

I was born in 1990 – a year that holds so much significance to the shaping of our beautiful country. It was on 10 February 1990 that our beloved statesman stepped out of prison as a free man!  This was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a man affectionately known the world over by his clan name, Madiba.

This was a time when the face of our South African history was changing and the darkness that had clouded this beautiful country was lifting.

Maybe subconsciously, the name Minenhle was inspired by the events of that year.

Madiba was like a grandfather to me, through television and newspapers. I didn’t know the man. I was so far removed from him that I had no reason to even dare to dream of meeting him.

But because of his selfless sacrifices for our freedom, I was brought up with a free spirit to dream and to live my dreams. My father instilled in us the importance of dreams and turning them into reality. One of mine was to meet Madiba.

One of the things that came about with the freeing of Madiba was a change in the perception of what beauty really is. The concept of beauty being just blue-eyes and blonde hair was dispelled very quickly.

I will never forget the day as a four year old in 1994 I got to watch Basetsana Makgalemele (now Khumalo) wear the crown as the Most Beautiful Girl in South Africa.

As Miss SA and the national ambassador she got to meet Madiba. That is the day my love for beauty pageants was born. In her I saw my dream of meeting Madiba realised.

I believed I could do this through pageants. Bassie, as she’s affectionately known, became one of my inspirations.

I pestered my parents about it and I entered every pageant I could.

My goal was the big one – to one day be like Bassie and wear the Miss SA crown. One pageant I had the honour of entering was Little Miss SA, was the first national pageant I had ever entered.

I only made the Top 6 in the regionals in the first year – they only took the Top 5 to nationals. I was disappointed but my mom encouraged me and I never lost heart. I threw myself into improving my skills and I did make it into the national round the next year.

I remember my final and winning question being: “If you got to meet Nelson Mandela, what is the one question you’d ask him?”  My 12-year-old self answered: “I would ask him what kept him motivated all those years in prison.”

I was crowned Little Miss SA 2002 and as I was being crowned I realised that the first step towards my dream had just been taken.

Soon after the crowning I penned a letter to Madiba telling him about my dream to meet him and my winning answer. I even wrote him a poem that he later put up on his office wall. When his office sent through a reply stating that he wanted to meet me too I was thrilled.

I couldn’t believe that I, Minenhle Dlamini, was about to meet the great Nelson Mandela. It was 2003 when my mother, my younger brother Khosini and I flew from Durban to Johannesburg to meet Madiba.

I still remember walking into his office at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton like it was yesterday. I felt truly overwhelmed. For a few seconds I was out of breath due to the shock! I was in complete awe of the man!

He came in and the first thing I noticed was how tall he was – like statue tall. His regal aura was all I took in and it calmed me. At the tender age of 13 I truly understood the presence of greatness and I realised I had accomplished meeting the man the world idolises. The man so many people dream of meeting stood right in front of me with his trademark smile and loving nature. He sat us down and immediately little Miss Me bounced straight into it and I started talking. I babble when I’m nervous.

We engaged in a beautiful conversation about life and he gave me some words of wisdom and encouragement that I hold dear to this day.

Most significant about our conversation was the pride he had in me for winning the title of Little Miss SA and the various initiatives I was involved in to change people’s lives.

He shared his dream of how he wished he could have grown up in my time so he could have been involved in such projects as a young person.

This came from a man who had played a huge role in my even being able to wear the crown that had led to this great meeting.

Remembering that day tonight, less than 48 hours after his passing, I know it was a great honour to be among those people who met Tata.

My proudest moment is when I got to ask him my winning question from Little Miss SA:  “What kept you motivated all those years in prison?” and he simply answered, “I always knew one day I would be free.”

With that response I knew dreaming and taking action on those dreams will lead to you realise your dreams. I will forever cherish the valuable lessons he taught me.

Tata, you truly have been a blessing, not only to us as a nation, but the world over. You are the sole reason the world looks at South Africa with loving eyes. You are the symbol of hope and peace.

Lala Ngoxolo Madiba

-By Minnie Dlamini

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