Linda McGregor - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
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Presidential smooch. That was the title of the photo of me hugging and kissing the then President Mr Nelson Mandela as it appeared on page 3 of the Cape Times on 3rd May 1995. I still get goosebumps as I recall that day. MyMoment with a Legend. What a thrill.
Workers Day 1995. President Mandela was to address the rally at the Athlone stadium. My disappointment at not being able to attend the rally due to work constraints soon turned to absolute excitement as I learned that he would be stopping at the Hanover Park Community Health Care Centre where I together with two other nurses and a doctor who was on duty, before going to the stadium.
Saturday morning 1st May. Hanover Park came out in their numbers to welcome President Mandela to their troubled, dusty township. The street leading to the Health Care Centre was lined with people bearing placards with messages of welcome and well wishes. All staff reported for duty where normally only emergency personnel was required to staff the trauma unit. The excitement was palpable.
President Mandela arrives to loud cheers and in true Madiba style he spends a few minutes greeting the community. He is then escorted into the education centre where he addresses us. (The staff of Hanover Park CHC). I (Linda McGregor) was chosen to pose a question about the high rate of gangsterism in our community. Q and A time arrives. I boldly raise my hand, stand up, take a deep breath and start shaking. My mouth completely dry and to my disdain, start giggling. I could not utter a single word. The great man rescued me from further embarrassment by stepping in and answering the question as if nothing happened.
After the vote of thanks (Icannot remember by whom) Madiba walked around the room greeting the personnel, shaking all outstretched hands. My fear was that he would not reach our end as his security kept telling him to wrap up.
To this day I cannot recall how I, who was standing in the second row, managed to do what I did. The photo confirms it. I had my arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips, hence the newspaper caption ‘Presidential smooch.”
That was my moment with a legend. The emotion I felt and shared with my colleagues at Hanover Park CHC was, and is, indescribable to this day –11 years later.
Thank you Madiba.
Quote: "Presidential Smooch."
Collection: Moments with a Legend