The Presidential Years

TT - In some interventions he worked with people like Abacha who had done bad things. One sees the difference between how he speaks directly with people and how he speaks about them in public - he never demeans them in public.

Graca Machel - That is in part, I think, Madiba’s personality. Both with colleagues, statesman or political leaders and even in his personal life, privately, Madiba would never diminish anyone.

But politically he knew also that these are leaders, these are heads of state, whether he likes it or not, it is not up to him to choose them, the Abacha’s and others. They are presidents of the country, and when you diminish a head of state you diminish the people they represent. It’s not personal, it is what is called statesmanship. If you diminish a head of state, literally you are also diminishing the people he represents. That’s why he might be very harsh privately, but publicly he would try to keep a certain level of respect and dignity to the leaders.

TT - It was the same with De Klerk.

Graca Machel - Yes, a very good example. You have adversaries like de Klerk who are heads of state. That’s why he went so far as to say de Klerk is a man of integrity and many people got very angry with that. Even De Klerk, even Buthelezi. That’s why Buthelezi even today says that those who don’t understand him are the ANC, but that Madiba always understands his role in history - he confuses being treated with respect and dignity and accepting his political trajectory. It was always like that, this is the person Madiba had become, very, very respectful of the dignity of other people.