My Madiba, my special man

By admin
09 July 2010

To the world he’s Madiba, the man who united the Rainbow Nation and possibly the greatest living political icon in the world. To her he’s her husband, her soulmate.

Graça Machel (64) looks almost sad as she relaxes on a couch when she chats about her husband, former president Nelson Mandela (92).

Her eyes narrow and her voice softens as she reveals in an open-hearted TV interview how hard it is to see Madiba get older by the day.

“We’re very lucky he has had a long life. Madiba has seen the realisation of his dreams in many ways. Even this World Cup. We’re also very lucky we have been able to share his freedom with him for this long.”

The world doesn’t think of him as old but like any other aged person he can be stubborn sometimes, she lets slip.

“When I try to give him some vitamins and he’ll ask, ‘What is this for?’ I’ll say, ‘You know, Pappa, it’s just to boost your appetite’. He’ll say, ‘Darling, I’m not sick, I’m old’.”

It might be hard to see Madiba grow old but things are going well with him, she tells Redi Direko on Mzansi Magic on DStv. “The doctors are very satisfied with his health. They - and we - take good care of him.”

The former president, who celebrated his 92nd birthday on 18 July, the first official international Mandela Day, is seldom seen in public these days. That’s how it should be, Graça says. Because in his old age he deserves peace and quiet.

Madiba and Graça married 12 years ago on his 80th birthday. She wanted to be his companion because he’d never had a soulmate. It was her birthday gift to him, she has said previously. And it’s plain to see there’s a special bond between them.

There is another side to Madiba: the sad side the outside world never sees, Graça reveals. As a woman she’s acutely aware of it. It’s the sadness he feels for old comrades who have passed on.

“I think Madiba has taken a deep sense of loss, precisely with [the deaths] of OR [Tambo] and Walter [Sisulu]. Much more than we can imagine because his life was so intimately linked to these two.”

The Madiba spirit we all came to know when he was released from prison is still in him, Graça says. “You see Madiba sitting, you don’t imagine he’s that old. His face is beaming. His spirit is high. Only when he stands up to walk you realise that age has taken its toll. He’s happy and very healthy.”

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