Just after Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990, my father, Bertie Lubner – a true
South African patriot and a man with a heart bigger than the African continent –
became directly acquainted with Madiba. This came about through his involvement
in the World Economic Forum. Few people know that dad was the key figure who in
1992 was instrumental in orchestrating and bringing together – for the first
time on the same platform – Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk and Zulu Chief
This was a real coup, as previously no one had been
able to bring these key figures together to speak in public. It took the
charisma and sincerity of someone like my dad to persuade these icons to share
this platform, at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1992. This marked another
important milestone in the collaborative spirit that was to change the nation
and the world in so many ways.
Thereafter my father and Mandela had a
friendship that grew and grew. They would meet on the second Tuesday of every
other month to discuss life, religion, politics and, most important, social
responsibility and social investment. From these important discussions the seed
of Afrika Tikkun was born and became a necessary reality for impoverished South
Africans. With my dad as its founder and Mandela as its patron-in-chief, Afrika
Tikkun was established in 1993, endeavoring to eradicate poverty by empowering
children and youth to develop into valuable, contributing members of South
In a telephone conversation after Madiba’s death last
Thursday, my 82-year-old father (in Johannesburg) and I (in Sydney) spoke about
many of his attributes, and we both agreed that one of the most important facets
of this great man was his ability to care and love the individual as much as the
whole. He was able to zone in and with genuine care and compassion focus 100
percent on just one life, no matter who you were or what your background was.
You always felt like you were the only person that mattered when he spoke with
As way of an example, I would like to share a personal
Around 12 years ago, my father had a major heart operation that
almost cost him his life.
That day, whilst he was in recovery, Mandela
arrived with his driver, unannounced, to visit him in the hospital. I remember
Mandela shuffling down the passageway, with the hospital alight in energy and
alive with adulation and love as he made his way towards my dad. Some of the
hospital staff were singing African praises with their hands in the air – it was
He had just a few hours previously touched down from a
three-week overseas trip, and came straight to the hospital to see my
You can imagine our delight and surprise. We huddled around the
bed as the two of them spoke like two old buddies about life and world affairs
and in particular about Madiba’s recent trip. After a while, my dad was on a
roll, talking away – partly a remnant of the anesthetic and most likely because
he simply has the gift of the gab.
Mandela, then 83, with the utmost
politeness put his hand on my father’s hand, stopped him and said, “Young man,
when I come to visit you in the hospital, I will do the talking.
come to visit me, then you can do they talking.”
Need I say more? What a
privilege we have had as a family to spend time with him and know him in this
manner. What a blessing and a responsibility to follow in his footsteps in
whatever way we can – and must. Viva Nelson Mandela!
For more information about
Afrika Tikkun, visit www.afrikatikkun.org.
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