SERI KEMBANGAN: PKR president Anwar Ibrahim today recounted how former South African president Nelson Mandela had apologised to him for not being able to help get him released from jail sooner.
Speaking at a Mandela Day event here today, Anwar said he had been following Mandela’s exploits when he was a student and that, as deputy prime minister, he had got to know the statesman when he came to Malaysia for an official visit.
Anwar said when he was serving time in jail in the late 1990s, he had heard that Mandela was trying his best to secure his release, including offering medical treatment for him as Mandela’s guest.
In 2004 after his release, Anwar said Mandela invited him to Johannesburg, South Africa, and that he went with his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and their children.
“He saw my children and suddenly he became very emotional, we were all disturbed, I tried to calm him down by making a small joke.
“I said, ‘Madiba (the name Mandela was fondly called), relax, mine was a short road to freedom’. He smiled,” said Anwar, adding that Mandela was emotional over his children having to suffer from their father’s jailing.
Mandela, Anwar said, was apologetic when talking to his children.
“He said, ‘Anwar, I’m sorry I was not able to help you’. I said ‘relax Madiba’. I told him I knew he had done his best,” he said.
But that was then, Anwar said, adding it was time to move on.
The Port Dickson MP paid tribute to Mandela’s compassion, saying the leader always wanted to talk about Anwar’s family when they met and not himself.
“He kept talking about not helping me, I was there for six years (prison) but he suffered and endured worse for 27 years and he refused to talk about himself. I kept talking about him and he kept asking about me,” Anwar said, adding he had never met a greater statesman than Mandela.
Mandela Day is held on July 18 to celebrate the life and legacy of the former South African president on his birthday.
Born in 1918, Mandela, who was South Africa’s first black president, suffered years of oppression and imprisonment in fighting against apartheid. He died in 2013 at the age of 95.