I have now completed one of the key tasks of my trip to South Africa. Copies of the programme for Nelson Mandela International Day in Glasgow 2014 are now in the possession of the Mandela Museum at Qunu, near his birthplace at Mvezo in the Eastern Cape. It was at Qunu where he grew up, herding the cattle of his guardian, Jongintaba, the regent of the Thembu boy king, Sabata Dalindyebo. The museum is situated on a hill, looking across the river valley to the Amathola mountains, and the scenery is truly stunning.
I was able to join a delegation that was visiting the Donald Woods Foundation on the trip to the Museum. We went to Mvezo on our way to the Museum, and then we drove past the Mandela house on our way to Qunu. We also visited Jongintaba’s umzi or Great Place, and saw the rondavel in which Mandela lived as a teenager after his circumcision ceremony, and before he left for Johannesburg. We met the Nkosi (Lord), the great-grandson of Jongintaba and his Makhulu (grandmother), the wife of Mandela’s cousin and Jongintaba’s son, Justice. It was very moving to meet someone who had known Nelson Mandela as a boy, and who had played with him.
When we got to the Museum we were greeted by Xhosa traditional women singers and dancers, who sang songs of welcome for us, and danced waving their walking sticks in the air. One of the women had a girl tied to her back in a shawl, which is the traditional method for carrying babies amongst the Xhosa.
I saw a photo-opportunity immediately, and asked the Museum staff if I could do the handover then and there, and if someone could translate what I was saying into Xhosa for the benefit of the singers and dancers. And the Museum staff agreed without hesitation.
So I told everyone that we had celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day in Glasgow this year in style. I said that we had been joined by his grand-daughter, Tukwini Mandela, by the Msanzi Youth Choir from Soweto, by the South African Commonwealth Games Team, by Hugh Masekela, by the South African High Commissioner and Government Ministers. I said that we had a day-long celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela. I said that I was delighted, on behalf of ACTSA Scotland, to hand over copies of the programme for the day’s events to the Mandela Museum.
And then I told them that I was going to salute Nelson Mandela in the manner traditional for anti-apartheid activists in the UK, and clenched my fist into the ANC Salute, and said “Amandla!” [Power!]. Voices from all around me replied “Ngawethu!” [to the people]. And then I was surrounded by women, in their traditional costumes, hugging me, and holding my hands.
I still know how to cause a riot.