Published: December 11, 2013
Burnham-On-Sea man recounts the day he met Nelson Mandela

A Burnham-On-Sea resident has this week recounted the incredible moment he shook hands with Nelson Mandela just days after the former South African president was released from prison.

Michael Turner met Mr Mandela outside his bungalow eleven days after he was released from jail in 1990 in front of the full media glare, as pictured here.

He told Burnham-On-Sea.com this week: "I'd talked my way into Nelson's garden and bungalow by explaining that I was an author of human rights and wanted some more teaching material. I was the only non-press person there."

"I surprised Nelson at the press photo shoot by saying 'Mr Nelson Mandela, please could you look this way for a photo and please can I have my photo taken with you? I am a school teacher in England and we teach about South Africa'."

"Nelson laughed and replied 'Come here, you have just become my hero.'"

Michael adds: "Everyone laughed as I was being photographed by the world's press. Journalists interviewed me for me taking the opportunity to be the first tourist in the world to meet him."

"Nelson could unexpectedly and suddenly produce humour and warmth. He was ready to laugh. He was tall and strong."

"I did not think he would reach 95 because soon after his release there was speculation about his health. He is the greatest man in the world and that means we all wanted him to live forever. Our heroes have to be ageless and immortal."

Michael - who frequently visits Africa, as recently reported here - says he briefly met Mr Mandela again a year ago in Nairobi. "He remembered what he called a gem of a story as I was the first ordinary foreign citizen to meet him after his release!"

The former South African president died last Thursday, aged 95. His funeral will be held this coming weekend.

Pictured: Top, the moment Michael met Nelson Mandela and, above, a recent photo

 


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