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South African Native Living In Philadelphia Recalls Meeting Nelson Mandela

Matt-Rivers-web-headshot Matt Rivers
Matt Rivers joined CBS 3 and The CW Philly’s Eyewitness News team ...
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By Matt Rivers

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The day Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, a teenage Godfrey Sithole was just beginning his journey to America.

“I was leaving, on my way out of South Africa, with my little brother,” said Sithole.

Mandela’s party, the African National Congress, had given him and 26 others scholarships.

Little did he know that 31 years later, as a local representative of the ANC, he would share the stage with his hero in Philadelphia.

When the South African icon came to Philly in 1993, Sithole was chairman of the welcoming committee, sitting next to Mandela at a civic center rally.

A fresh recipient of the Liberty Medal, officials said he might be too tired to attend. Not so.

“Lo and behold, when he came onstage, he said, ‘I’m not tired,’ and he looked fresh,” said Sithole.

Sithole is older now, but he remembers the trip like it was yesterday. Pictures help keep the memories fresh.

One shows the time he presented a painted portrait of Mandela to the late President.

“When he looked at this picture, he said, ‘Oh, I wish I was that young!’”

For the Sithole family, losing Mandela is like losing one of their own. To them, the man was not just a leader — he was an ideal.

“Inspiration, courage, dedication, sacrifice, that was that,” said Sithole. “That was what Mandela symbolized.”

And so it’s with that example that they’ll move forward, celebrating the life of a man who made their lives so much better.

“He did his job, and now it’s for us to carry on his legacy.”