On the eve of the death of Nelson Mandela, my wife unexpectedly asked me whether I was aware of the latest news on his health. I told her it was the status quo without sensing that Nelson Mandela would depart for good within the following hours.
When we were in J’burg in September  last to attend the birthday anniversary of our grandson Kai,and also to visit  the Mandela house and museum in Soweto ,  Nelson Mandela’s health  suddenly deteriorated and the South Africans from all walks of life joined hands to pray for his recovery. They knew that he was physically worn out. While the majority entertained the hope that his continued presence constituted the best guarantee for national unity ,other groups felt that he should not be made to suffer further and it was time for him to go home and rest in peace.However,the long period of illness gave South Africans adequate time to ponder on the what would be South Africa without Mandela. One has the feeling that Nelson Mandela is a master planner even concerning his post era.
 I was appointed as  Liaison Officer to Nelson Mandela when he attended the SADC Summit in Mauritius in 1998 as President of South Africa.. I introduced myself to him at his hotel in Caudan  before he moved to Royal Palm hotel, Grand Bay to be near the conference centre. I admired his business like style while I  briefed him on the Summit arrangements .On the first day of the Summit, I called on him in the morning and walked with him to the breakfast room. He set the pace and walked very briskly. I told him that some SADC leaders were planning to have breakfast together. He replied that he had to attend a working breakfast with the international press .I realized that he was not the man to accept last minute changes. He favoured  a strict discipline in his daily programme.Once inside the conference hall ,he would spend the whole day  with his counterparts. The security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo caused by attacks by rebels from Rwanda and Uganda  was a hard nut to crack. President Mandela firmly believed in African unity and put his full weight behind the search of a peaceful  solution to the conflict. At the end of the session ,he returned to his room where he was greeted by a lovely and dignified lady,Gracia Machel.It was great to watch the two walking hand in hand. They were a fabulous couple.
    Before leaving the hotel, I  asked the South African Chief of Protocol how his boss could sustain such long working hours. He proudly told me that Nelson Mandela would  go to bed  only after reading all the dispatches sent to him by his office in Pretoria. All Heads of State should be inspired by his philosophy of life and his immense dedication to hard work.
    It was the same drill on the following morning .After the quick pace morning walk to the breakfast room, I thought that I should find an opportunity of indirectly seeking  his views on the US Congress move to destitute  President Bill Clinton in the wake of the Monika Lewinsky affair which was the talk of the day. I had earlier read that Nelson Mandela was planning a visit to the US. So, on the way back from breakfast, I mentioned his forthcoming trip to Washington at a time when Clinton was under terrible pressure. He told me in a very determined manner that  Clinton had done a lot for racial integration  and he would work closely with the black caucus in US to rally support for Clinton. That was  an elegant way of saying that we should judge political leaders on the totality of their actions and not selectively on one or two issues.
 The discussions  of the Summit dragged into the night. The  proceedings were concluded past midnight. Nelson Mandela returned to his room and instructed that all arrangements should be made for his immediate departure. His presidential plane was ready on the tarmac. He was seen off  at the airport by the Prime Minister  at around 2.00a.m.As he was shaking hands with the dignitaries before boarding he saw me .He turned back and shook my hands to thank me. Not many Heads of State behave in that humane manner.
I had the privilege  to see him  later in other international meetings. His interventions were always listened to with the greatest  respect and attention. His presence constituted a strong moral force. That force became stronger even after he left politics . The vibrant homage paid to him by world leaders and ordinary citizens when news of his death hit the headlines in all parts of our planet is a wonderful testimony of our most profound gratitude to an exceptional human being who blessed humanity with his powerful  message of hope and reconciliation, his soothing words of wisdom and his legendary smile.
Thank you,Mr President, for the invaluable legacy you have bestowed to mankind.