Nelson Mandela visits Army in Soweto

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FORMER PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA gives a gift to a child at the Army’s Carl Sithole Centre.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela visited The Salvation Army’s Carl Sithole Centre in Soweto recently; Mandela was present to highlight the work of many different agencies, including The Salvation Army, serving the neediest children of South Africa. Many adults and children from the surrounding community attended.

In his address to the crowd, the territorial commander, Commissioner William Mabena, welcomed the former president and spoke of The Salvation Army’s commitment to children at risk.

Mandela then graciously distributed gifts to the children, greeting each one with questions about their name, age and other personal details. Many of the children were overcome by the opportunity to meet a “living legend,” although some may have had no idea who he was!

“After the distribution of gifts, a small child rushed through the security cordon and thrust a handmade card into his hand,” said Major Darren Mudge, community relations and development secretary.

“Mandela was surprised and tried to catch the child who rapidly dashed away. Fort-unately I was in a position to ‘tackle’ the child and swiftly returned him to Madiba. I’m sure the kid thought he was going to be punished, but Madiba quickly smiled, shook the boys hand, chatted with him and thanked him for his first Christmas card of the season.”

Mandela then spent some time saying farewell to the Mabenas and took his leave for a visit to other sites.

During his visit, Mandela asked about the health of Commissioners Israel and Eva Gaither and of General John Gowans ® and Commissioner Gisèle Gowans, whom he had met previously. “We spent the next several minutes discussing various ministries of The Army throughout Southern Africa. He was particularly interested in the work of the Army in Mozambique; he has a certain fondness for Mozambique, given that his wife, Graca Machel is originally from there. Her late husband was the President of Mozambique when he died in a plane crash several years ago,” Mudge stated.



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