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Zelda la Grange’s Good Morning, Mr Mandela Launch Attended by Numerous VIPs, Mandela and Machel Families

Zindzi Mandela, George Bizos and Zelda la Grange

Good Morning, Mr MandelaGoeiemore, Mnr. MandelaZelda la Grange’s memoir of her time as Nelson Mandela’s personal assistant, Good Morning, Mr Mandela, was launched at a glittering event at The Venue, Melrose Arch last night.

The launch was attended by Chief Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Zindzi Mandela, Josina and Malengani Machel, Sheila Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, George Bizos and Mandela’s doctor Michael Plitt, among many others.

The evening began with a prayer by Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, before Johrne van Huyssteen of Ddisselblom sang a rendition of one of La Grange’s favourite songs, Koos du Plessis’ Gebed.

In Good Morning, Mr Mandela, La Grange reveals how she grew up in an “apartheid household”, even voting ‘no’ in the 1992 referendum, but says that when she met Madiba in 1994 her whole perspective changed. In conversation with Beeld editor Adriaan Basson, La Grange described meeting the former president for the first time, saying she was just a “happy typist” who never expected to meet him: “The president was in and out of the office but I didn’t meet him at any point. I never thought I’d see him; I never thought I’d meet him. And I was delivering a note one day and I nearly bumped into him. Suddenly this man was standing in front of me and he extended his hand, and what do you do in that situation? You reciprocate.

“I said ‘Good morning, Mr Mandela’, and that was the turning point in my life because I could see he was visibly old, I could see the kindness in his face, the sincerity with which he approached me. He was speaking to me and I didn’t understand him, and I said ‘excuse me, Mr President?’ When he repeated himself I realised he was speaking to me in Afrikaans. I felt like an idiot, but it was such a surprise. He completely destroyed my defences by speaking to me in my own language. So I started crying, I was very emotional, and he held my hand, and with his other hand he tapped me on the shoulder and said: ‘Now you really are overreacting!’”

Basson asked La Grange if she ever saw herself as Madiba’s “token Afrikaner”, asking: “Was it ever a burden, or a blessing?”

“It was never a burden no,” La Grange replied. “I think if you were given that challenge you would grab it with both hands. A challenge, yes, on many occasions. If things are intense you have to assess things properly all the time, you have to watch your behaviour all the time that you are not seen to be prejudice towards anyone.”

Ben Williams, Jennifer Platt and Jennifer Malec tweeted from the event using the hashtag #livebooks:

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