Membathisi Mphumzi Shephard Mdladlana - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
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Title: Membathisi Mphumzi Shephard Mdladlana
This was the day of my swearing-in as the second Minister of Labour after comrade Tito Mboweni was appointed to the Reserve Bank. It was an interesting day because it was also the birthday of Madiba, and the day Madiba married Mrs Graca Machel. I was with my wife Sindiswa, my daughter Simile and my son Sonele. As you can see, in the photo, Madiba became the grandfather to my children, and my wife and I felt that fatherly love. It never dawned on me at the time that he was entrusting me with a heavy responsibility, that of being a Minister. Maybe it is the way I was sworn in that contributed to my being Minister of Labour for 12 years. That day humbled me so much that I never disappointed Madiba by getting involved in fraud, corruption and scandals throughout the years.
Madiba was my inspiration and he was my source of strength. There was much speculation about my appointment as the Minister. Those who were uncertain did not know that it is Madiba who called me in 1990, three days before the launch of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), and told me that I am going to be the first president of SADTU. It was about 01:30am when my wife picked up the phone and woke me up and said, “Its Mandela”. I jumped and grabbed the phone from her, as I did not believe her. Indeed it was Madiba on the line. He had done his homework and he knew that I had rejected the proposal, and he also knew that I deliberately absented myself from the Durban Conference where the decision was made. I told him that I am scared, for I had no experience and still needed to grow. He really went out of his way to persuade me and convince me and made it very difficult for me to say no. He assured me of his assistance. I never contested any position. I really did not know how Madiba was going to make teachers vote for me, I still do not know how he did it, but it happened and I was unanimously elected at the conference as the first President of SADTU in 1990.
Madiba is a very simple, honest, humble, unsophisticated and ordinary human being. He is filled with kindness and a remarkable and extraordinary personality. I come from a very humble, poor background. I do not have the popularity that others have but Madiba would give me a call to accompany him. I had the privilege on many occasions to travel with him in his official car.
Madiba is a complete model of a human being. A human being with outstanding qualities of leadership.Madiba was the most noble and most selfless person I have ever met. It was a privilege to have Madiba as my president, my leader, my father, my mentor and my teacher.
Quote: "I still do not know how he did it, but it happened."
Collection: Moments with a Legend