Revisiting Queen’s friendship with Mandela

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The special name that Mandela had for the Queen was ‘Motlalepula’, which means ‘to come with rain’ in the indigenous Setswana language…reports Asian Lite News

Contravening royal etiquette, Nelson Mandela often referred to Queen Elizabeth II by a special name out of respect and affection, South Africa’s late apartheid hero’s foundation said on Friday, while sharing interesting anecdotes on their friendship.

Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, died on Thursday at Balmoral Castle in Scotland after reigning for 70 years.

She was 96.

“By his own admission, Nelson Mandela was an anglophile, and in the years after his release from the prison, he cultivated a close relationship with the Queen. He hosted her in South Africa and visited her in England, taking particular delight in exploring Buckingham Palace,” the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement.

“They also talked on the phone frequently, using their first names with each other as a sign of mutual respect as well as affection,” the Foundation said.

The special name that Mandela had for the Queen was ‘Motlalepula’, which means ‘to come with rain’ in the indigenous Setswana language, it said.

During a banquet hosted by Mandela in 1997 for then Prince Charles, who is now King Charles III, Mandela explained the reasoning behind coining this special name for the Queen.

“We cherish fond memories of the Royal State Visit to South Africa by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1995. We regard it as a watershed in the historical relationship between our countries, now firm partners for peace and prosperity,” Mandela had said.

“As a token of our affection to Her Majesty, we conferred on her the name ‘Motlalepula’, because her visit coincided with torrential rains that we had not experienced in a long time. With the threat of El Nino, we would have welcomed her presence in this period even more. But we can rest content that a part of her soul and her magic is with us today,” he added.

Fondly known to South Africans as Madiba, Mandela spent 27 years in prison, before leading his country from white minority rule to a multi-racial democracy.

He died in 2013 aged 95.

Mandela received numerous civic awards from British institutions, including the British Order of Merit from the Queen, the Order of St John, and an honorary doctorate in law.

“For Madiba (the clan name by which Mandela is fondly known) it was important that the former colonial power in southern Africa should be drawn into cordial and productive relations with the newly democratic republic of South Africa,” the Foundation said.

“For the same reason, South Africa becoming a full member of the Commonwealth again after its long apartheid-era absence had a special significance,” the Foundation said.

The Foundation also recalled how Mandela would ask anyone from Britain or anyone who had visited Britain the question, “And did you get to meet the Queen?” “He would then take great delight in sharing anecdotes of his encounters with her,” the Foundation said, as it shared condolences with the Royal Family and wished King Charles III “strength and fortitude as he takes on new responsibilities at this difficult time.”

Meanwhile, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also expressed his profound and sincere condolences to King Charles III.

“Her Majesty was an extraordinary and world-renowned public figure who lived a remarkable life. Her life and legacy will be fondly remembered by many around the world. The Queen’s commitment and dedication during her 70 years on the throne remains a noble and virtuous example to the entire world,” Ramaphosa said in a statement on Friday.

He recalled how he had met the Queen at the last Commonwealth meeting in London four years ago.

“(We) spent some time looking at letters that Former President Mandela had sent to the Queen, reminiscing about the great statesman that Her Majesty respected enormously,” he recollected and added that South Africa’s thoughts and prayers are with the Royal Family, the government and people of the United Kingdom as they mourn their immense loss.

In South Africa and across the globe, the death of Queen Elizabeth II has prompted reflections on the historic sweep of her reign and how she succeeded in presiding over the end of Britain’s colonial empire and embracing the independence of her former dominions.

It was in Cape Town, marking her 21st birthday in 1947, that the then Princess Elizabeth pledged that her “whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong”.

The British empire soon crumbled, but Elizabeth managed to maintain a regal if a ceremonial, position as the head of the Commonwealth, the 54 nations of mostly previous British colonies.

“The Queen lived a long and consequential life, fulfilling her pledge to serve until her very last breath at the age of 96,” Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, said in a statement Friday.

“She was an exemplary leader of the kind seldom seen in the modern era.”

As queen, Elizabeth was seen as endorsing the birth of democracies in Africa where previously Blacks had been denied basic rights, including the vote.

When in glittering tiaras she danced with new African leaders in the 1960s and visited their capital cities, she bestowed a legitimacy on their governments.

When white-minority rule finally fell in South Africa in 1994, Elizabeth welcomed Nelson Mandela as a world leader.

Her openly warm friendship with Mandela was enjoyed by him, and it gave her a new relevance.

“In the years after his release from prison, (Mandela) cultivated a close relationship with the queen. He hosted her in South Africa and visited her in England, taking particular delight in exploring Buckingham Palace. They also talked on the phone frequently, using their first names with each other as a sign of mutual respect as well as affection,” the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement Friday.

“For Madiba (Mandela’s clan name) it was important that the former colonial power in southern Africa should be drawn into cordial and productive relations with the newly democratic republic of South Africa. For the same reason, South Africa becoming a full member of the Commonwealth again after its long apartheid-era absence had a special significance,” it said.

Fellow radical anti-apartheid fighter, Anglican archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, also enjoyed good relations with the queen, and his foundation paid tribute to her.

“Although ensconced in the pomp, ceremony and lifestyle of royalty and empire, in a world of profound inequality, she was a servant queen,” Tutu’s foundation and trust said Friday.

In contrast, a scathing view of the queen’s rule was issued by South Africa’s populist party, the Economic Freedom Fighters.

The queen was “head of an institution built up, sustained, and living off a brutal legacy of dehumanisation of millions of people across the world,” said the statement.

“We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth, because to us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in this country and Africa’s history,” said the party.

“During her 70-year reign as queen, she never once acknowledged the atrocities that her family inflicted on native people that Britain invaded across the world. She willingly benefited from the wealth that was attained from the exploitation and murder of millions of people across the world.”

The queen’s death came as a growing number of British territories in the Caribbean are seeking to replace the monarch with their own heads of state amid demands that Britain apologise for its colonial-era abuses and award its former colonies slavery reparations.

Still, Caribbean leaders mourned her.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that for many years Elizabeth visited the island every decade.

“Undoubtedly, she formed a special bond with the people of Jamaica,” he said.

“We are saddened that we will not see her light again, but we will remember her historic reign.”

Bermuda Premier David Burt noted that her reign “has spanned decades of such immense change for the United Kingdom and the world.”

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