Leon Wessels - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Welcome to the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project. Our aim is to locate, document, digitise, and provide access to all archival materials related to Nelson Mandela. This is a work in progress. Here is a selection of materials arranged in exhibits for your enjoyment.
8 May 1996
Tuynhuis, Cape Town
This is 12h20 on 8 May 1996. The Constitutional Assembly (CA) has just concluded its official business (12h08) – after two years of constitutional negotiation – by agreeing to the final Constitution. We are walking from parliament to President Mandela’s office in Tuynhuys for a small celebration before joining the members of the Constitutional Assembly for a photo opportunity and public festivities.
In the photograph, Madiba and FW de Klerk are flanked by their security men. Cyril Ramaphosa, chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly, is nearby but not in the picture. I accompany these two Nobel Peace Prize winners because I am the Deputy Chair of the Constitutional Assembly.
Two years have lapsed since Madiba’s election as head of state on 9 May 1994. The constitutional negotiations have yielded – within the required time period – the desired result; South Africa now has its final constitution, drafted by democratically elected members of the CA.
There is much banter between Mandela and De Klerk about their previous public spats; and how the proceedings this day went smoothly without any wrangles.
Fulfilling the role of Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly is the highlight of my political career. Simply being in the presence of two men honoured by the Nobel Peace Prize committee, and being valued by someone revered by the world, is an unforgettable moment.
Madiba makes me feel special – as if my presiding over the proceedings was the reason why the CA had completed its work in good time, “Leon, your performance today was a kragtoer (tour de force). Thank you very much! Since I first met you in Oslo, (August 1990) you have never disappointed me.”
I cannot imagine the negotiating process and South Africa’s transition to democracy without him. What a giant! If I had not rubbed shoulders with this legend, I would have been poorer.
Quote: "Madiba makes me feel special – as if my presiding over the proceedings was the reason why the CA had completed its work."
Collection: Moments with a Legend