The Presidential Years

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During that tenure Madiba’s role was fundamentally important and hands-on.

One thing he did, in appreciation of the fact that it was a Government of National Unity, when Parliament was in session was to convene us at Genadendal for supper in the dining room on the night before the Cabinet meeting so that we could caucus positions that we wanted to take and be mutually supportive. It afforded comrades to have a discussion that was quite free.

It was at a meeting like that that we were waiting to start. He and Joe Modise weren’t in the room. They came back and Madiba with that stern face said, ‘Joe!’ Joe Modise began crying: ‘It’s not a nice day for me to say this, it is my birthday but the President has spoken to me about this contract to buy the corvettes from Spain and he said that we will cancel this contract. I don’t know how I’m going to tell my troops, especially the navy, that we are cancelling the contract. But the president assures me that we would look at this thing.’ It was at meetings like that that this kind of interaction happened.

Trevor Manuel
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