Geruchtenstroom: Mandela Fit!

Uit de Sunday Times, 30 december 2007



Fit Mandela shows up at Ramphele’s 60th bash

Rumours last week of Nelson Mandela being gravely ill caused panic around the world and his office was inundated with calls.

But this week Madiba was jovial as he sipped champagne at a star-studded bash to celebrate the 60th birthday of his comrade, Mamphela Ramphele.

The former President made a rare social appearance at Ramphele’s party, hosted in a white marquee decorated with 500 red roses and 300 orchids.

Mandela’s spokesman, Zelda la Grange, had to dispel rumours that he was in poor health.

“Rumours have again surfaced about Mr Mandela’s wellbeing. Mr Mandela is enjoying the festive season with his family,” said La Grange.

Concerns over Madiba were also raised earlier this year when US President George W Bush, in a trademark blunder, announced that he had died.

“All we can do is reassure people, especially South Africans, that President Mandela is alive,” Achmat Dangor, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, told Reuters in September, as Bush’s comments received worldwide coverage.

Ramphele, an academic, medical doctor and political activist, founded the Black Consciousness Movement in the ’60s with Steve Biko, the father of her children, Lerato and Hlumelo. She was appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town in 1996 — the first black woman to hold the post — and was voted 55th in the Top 100 Great South Africans in 2004.

Mandela did not attend the ANC national conference in Polokwane, Limpopo, leading to concern that his health had taken a turn for the worse.

But the Nobel Peace laureate, now 89, smiled broadly and waved as he entered the marquee at a Cape Town hotel on Friday night. Dressed in a black satin shirt, he leaned heavily on a silver and ivory cane and on his wife, Graça Machel . “Thank you, thank you,” said Machel, as people shook Mandela’s hand.

Other A-list guests at Ramphele’s party included Transnet boss Maria Ramos and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, in a striped shirt, without his usual rakish tie.

Also there were Cape Town mayor and Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille in a cerise silk jacket from Habits, her husband Johan Maree, former Education minister Kader Asmal and his wife Louise.

The master of ceremonies, Hlumelo Biko, had the distinguished crowd in stitches, while Archbishop Desmond Tutu gave the blessing.

“Mamphela, we smile in our hearts knowing that God took a bit more trouble creating you,” said Tutu. “We want to celebrate you and hold you up, and say thank you for being you.”

Mandela sipped champagne and planted a big birthday kiss on Ramphele’s lips after family friend Vincent Maphai made a toast. The birthday girl looked radiant in a beaded, deep- turquoise gown.

Ramphele, who was born in Polokwane and now lives in Camps Bay, said her ideal birthday gift would be “a commitment that each of us go home and evaluate how good a citizen I have been in the new democracy”.

She referred to Mandela as “my father” and thanked him for always being there for her. “Basically, I’m celebrating 60 years of being supported. There’s no success without support,” she said.

Ramphele’s medical credentials were evident in the event’s catering. Starters consisted of smoked chicken, Waldorf salad and a green-leaf salad, while supper was lamb, chicken kebabs, fish, pumpkin, vegetables and beetroot.

Mandela and Machel left at 8pm, before dinner.