South Africa: New Mandela book "flying off" the shelves (News Analysis by Craig Urquhart, PANA Correspondent, Cape Town)

Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) – Apart from Nelson Mandela’s internationally-acclaimed best-seller, the “Long Walk To Freedom”, released a few years ago which set the literary world "alight", a new book on Mandela this week from his former secretary Zelda la Grange is "flying off the shelves".

La Grange released her memoirs on Mandela, the global icon who transformed South Africa’s political history, and South Africa’s leading book-sellers confirmed to PANA that it is “flying off the shelves”.

Titled “Good morning, Mr. Mandela”, it chronicles how la Grange had her life and everything she once believed in transformed by the prisoner-turned-world-statesman.

She grew up as a white Afrikaner who supported the rules of racial segregation.

From 1994 to 1996, la Grange served as a typist at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where Mandela took her under his wing.

In the book, she recalls the moment she bumped into him for the first time: “He extended his hand to shake mine. I was confused and not sure whether it was proper for me to greet him. I said ‘Good morning, Mr. Mandela’. One doesn’t really know what to do at that point except cry. which I did. It was all too much. I was sobbing.”

Soon afterwards, the global icon appointed her his private secretary and then, when he left office in 1999, appointed her as his personal assistant and official spokesperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The book also lifts the lid on ugly family squabbles as Mandela neared the end of his life last year. She claims Mandela’s staff and family were put under surveillance by intelligence agents as feuding factions used state resources to fight for control over him.

As a result, la Grange who worked for Mandela for 19 years, was pushed out of his inner circle in the final months before he died last December.

La Grange said she suspected that the phones belonging to her and Mandela’s wife Graca Machel were being secretly tapped so that confidential discussions about Mandela could be monitored.

And she takes a swing at President Jacob Zuma’s political loyalists, saying they treated the ailing icon “like a caged animal” when they wanted to be photographed with him.

La Grange writes that Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe, nicknamed Machel "Ms Frantic" for the manner in which she reacted when an ambulance transporting her sick husband to hospital broke down on a highway last year. And, after his death, she was forced to get accreditation to attend his memorial service and could only bring four family members.

"It was becoming farcical. If we could barely get Nelson Mandela's widow and her children accredited to attend his memorial service, it was becoming downright impossible to get anyone else officially accredited," la Grange writes.

As a result, close friends like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Oprah Winfrey had difficulty securing accreditation for the funeral. While Makaziwe has threatened to sue la Grange, his other daughter, Zindzi, attended the book launch in Johannesburg on Thursday and saluted the author, saying her late father would have welcomed the publication.

"It's common knowledge, when Tata (father) was asked how he wished to be remembered, he'd often say that he wants people to decide for themselves."

Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, who also attended the launch, said la Grange "has told a wonderful story”.

La Grange has already come under fire for spilling family secrets, but she is also being credited for exposing the manner in which South Africa's greatest son was treated when he was no longer able to fend for himself.
-0- PANA CU/VAO 21June2014

21 june 2014 09:54:57

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