Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II were on a first-name basis, a rare privilege, the late anti-apartheid hero's foundation said Friday, sharing anecdotes about their complicity.
During the lifetime of Mandela, who had spent 27 years in prison before becoming the first president of the young South African democracy freed from its racist laws, the exchanges between these two great figures were warm, recalls this statement of the Mandela Foundation.
"They spoke frequently on the phone, calling each other by their respective first names as a sign of mutual respect and affection," said the statement, issued the day after the British monarch died at 96.
"By his own admission, Nelson Mandela was an Anglophile and, in the years, following his release from prison, he cultivated a close bond with the Queen," the text said. "He received her in South Africa and visited her in England, not shying away from exploring Buckingham Palace.
He also gave the Queen the nickname "Motlalepula", which means "come with the rain". During a state visit in 1995, "Elizabeth" arrived with torrential rain, "the like of which had not been seen for a long time" in the former British colony, Mandela recounted two years later at a banquet for Prince Charles, now King.
During the last years of his life, Madiba (Mandela's clan name), who died in 2013 at the age of 95, took great pleasure in "reminding his British interlocutors that South Africa had thrown off the colonial yoke.
In the same way, the former South African president, seizing every opportunity for joy at the end of a life of struggle, would mischievously ask "every Briton or every person who had visited Great Britain: +And did you get to meet the Queen?", before telling them his own anecdotes with her.
The foundation "joins the multitude around the world in saying +hamba kahle+ (go in peace) to the Queen".
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