ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • Commercial & Creative Writing»
  • Creative Writing

Book Review: Good Morning, Mr Mandela

Updated on July 4, 2016
Flowers for Zelda
Flowers for Zelda | Source

Book Report: Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange

What would the possibility be of a young “boeremeisie” (Afrikaner girl) from a typical Afrikaans Boksburg family becoming a personal secretary to President Mandela sometime after he was released from prison in 1990 and then duly chosen to become the first President of the “New South Africa”? Then after he retired to stay on as his personal secretary until his death in 2013?

None! But fairy tales do happen.

This book is the story of her life, but also gives a unique insight into the life of Nelson Mandela from when he became President up to his death. It needs to be read and understood on two levels:

1. As the amazing later life of Mandela, one of the best known persons in modern world history, his skill as a leader and his amazing humanity as a person, that made him an icon in his own time.

2. As the account of a young woman who gets an amazing opportunity to serve in a capacity that she could not have dreamt would be possible. Overcoming her belief about white and blacks, about the South African political scene as she learnt it from her parents and her own observations in her society, “her eyes were opened” by Madiba, or Khulu as she called him. Travelling with him to countries all over the world, meeting world leaders and famous people, her life is interesting and challenging. Names like Clinton, Queen Elizabeth, Gadhafi, Bush, Mugabe, Cameron, Ghandi, Oprah and Naomi Cambell, Charlene Theron, Bono, Kofi Annan, Morgan Freeman etc. are mentioned. Some became friends of Mandiba as they supported his initiatives to set up his children’s fund as tose from the music fraternity who supported his fundraising efforts. His contact with sportsmen and officials is documented, some we know about and others that we don’t. François Pienaar, Hansie Cronje and Danny Jordaan are just a few. He greets the Queen as “Elizabeth” and when questioned about that he answers, “She calls me Nelson”. At a later meeting he comments to her that she has lost weight!

La Grange gives us her candid and honest opinion of what she thought, observed and felt about countries and people.

She is tasked with taking care of Madiba in many different ways, and over the years, as a close relationship developed. She tried to balance the many demands on his time, especially after he “retired”, first as President and then from his role as mediator in disputes in Africa and elsewhere. He continued his work as founder of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and other trusts.

Conflict came from every side. She lost some of her Afrikaner friends, was seen as “his minder” by many who thought that they had a right to his time, and she said “she doesn’t mind” that. Her personal life was challenged as her job was never an eight to five one. Conflict with the family was always going to be a problem but she seemed to be aware of that and described how she tried to avoid it. A good relationship with Gracia Marchel, who she called Mum, and her family developed as it did with some of the Mandela family. Others in the family resented her presence and showed it.

What Mandela appreciated was her organizational skills and strict insistence on detail. One of the many things that she learnt from him was to accept people without prejudice, even if you cannot agree with what they believe or had done in the past. He not only preached that but lived it out. He had the ability to trust people until they proved to be untrustworthy. At the same time he was seen to be a very intelligent man and a shrewd politician. Some of his statements that she shared are beautiful. He is reported to have said, “I moved in circles where common sense and practical experience were important, and where high academic qualifications were not necessarily decisive.” (Conversations with myself – Nelson Mandela)

Like all fairy tales the road was not always smooth and the death and funeral services of Madiba reads like a nightmare, as was reported in the press at the time. The fighting for his “wealth” brought out the worst in some of the family, and continues after the book was published with court cases about possessions, including his Qunu property, and corruption charges against those who stole money allocated for the funeral, continuing at present.

The book, apart from being a detailed and careful record of an important time in our own history as seen by someone who was blessed to be right in the front lines, is also an account of a white South African woman battling with her entrance into a wider world, here in South Africa and on the world stage. She writes with an openness and honesty that I found engaging. Her humour also comes through, and for an Afrikaans speaking South African she shows good literary skills.

From my point of view I found it a compelling read and will add it to my list of books that every South African and in fact everyone in the world should read. There are times when I had to wipe a tear from my eye as she recorded events that perhaps needed to be seen from a woman’s eye. Sometimes the details of another trip or another meeting became a bit tedious but that does not take away from the powerful message of the book.

The ensuing war that erupted on social media after the publication of the book is unfortunate and needs to be understood in light of the family feelings. Some must at times have felt frustrated because she had become more like a granddaughter and less like a secretary as time went by.

I believe Madela would have approved of the book and would have said “well done Zelda! You have learned to be courageous as I told you many years ago”

Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange: Penquin Books, 2014

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Johan Smulders profile image
      Author

      Johan Smulders 23 months ago from East London, South Africa

      Yes Martie-unfortunately jealousy and greed stick their ugly heads out all the time. There are so many wise statements that Mandela made. One was that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts completely. We see that happening in our country and all over the world. Thanks for the comment and enjoy the rest of the book!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 23 months ago from South Africa

      I'm halfway through this book and also find it a compelling read. I have read some nasty comments about Zelda and cannot understand why some people are unable to see that she was only an ordinary Boeremeisie who have had a awesome experience working for Nelson Mandela, who opened her mind and changed her perspectives. I'm so glad she wrote the book. I can't wait to see the movie.

      Excellent review!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)