Good Morning, Mr. Mandela honors one of history’s greatest leaders

Megan Ralfe, Staff Writer

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From his days as a freedom fighter to his long walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela is regarded as one of the greatest leaders to have ever served. In Good Morning, Mr. Mandela: the Memoir, Zelda La Grange captures a candid image of what life was like as Nelson Mandela’s personal secretary.

Accompanying him on international business trips, La Grange experienced a life far from the one she had known. Becoming acquainted with international figures such as Bono and Bill Clinton, La Grange dedicated her life to a man that she and her culture once feared.    

 

Winning the presidential election in 1994, Nelson Mandela had just become the first president to lead South Africa after the fall of  the white supremacist government, Apartheid. Representing the white Afrikaner population, La Grange had just started her new position as assistant secretary for the Mandela administration. Noting her obvious apprehension to work under a black president, La Grange was astounded to discover the new President greet her in her native language, Afrikaans.

 

Spending 27 years on Robbin Island, Mandela was imprisoned by the people he would eventually come to lead. Making an effort to learn the native language of his prison guards, Mandela invested himself in the poetry and literature of a culture that oppressed and murdered his own. La Grange portrays a man who sought to rekindle a broken relationship between black and white. A man that sought forgiveness after 27 years in a 8×7 foot prison cell.

 

In his later years, Mandela went on to describe La Grange as a daughter of his own. Gifting her the nickname “Zeldina,” Mandela depended on La Grange for everything. From his morning breakfast to the three South African newspapers shipped daily to whichever international destination he found himself, wherever Nelson Mandela was, La Grange was not far behind.

Never married, La Grange was on 24/7 standby for Mandela, as she would be the one person to know him most. Going into depth of the personal issues Mandela faced throughout his life and presidency, it’s no wonder La Grange continued to work for Mandela until the day of his death.

 

The relationship between Mandela and La Grange defied all odds in the early rebuilding of a new South Africa. As a white Afrikaner, La Grange was strongly advised to compose a letter of resignation at the start of the Mandela presidency. In a country once banned from playing international sports due to its extent of racial prejudice, the unbreakable bond between black and white displayed in the book signified the first steps towards reconciliation.

 

The year 2018 marks Nelson Mandela’s centennial birthday. A life dedicated to overcoming the grips of Apartheid, Nelson Mandela redefined the definition of forgiveness. After building a stadium in his honor and deeming July 18 as Nelson Mandela Day, a permanent imprint is left of Madiba.

Through Good Morning, Mr. Mandela, we as outsiders are given an intimate look into the personal relationships, struggles, and achievements of a man that conquered the constraints of racism and hardship.