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My first memory of Nelson Mandela

The release of Nelson Mandela made my dad so happy he bought me a huge ice cream cake.
Last modified: 25 Jun 2013 16:39
Former South African president Nelson Mandela during a visit to London in 2008 [Reuters]

It was the 11th of February 1990, two days before my 10th birthday. That was when South Africa's Nelson Mandela got released from prison.

I remember that day very well because I didn't have to go to school. My home country, Zimbabwe, celebrated his release by making the day a public holiday.

I was too young to understand the impact of all of it. But I could see my mother and father were excited. They made me and siblings watch the news that night. Mandela and his now former wife Winnie walking with crowds of people cheering them on.

I remember my dad saying something like, "South Africa is going to change for the better... Africa is going to change for the better".

I didn't know what he meant at the time, but I was excited because he was excited.

Africa and South Africa have come a long way since Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1990.

A lot of progress has been made but there are a lot if issues that still need to be addressed - poverty, unemployment and growing inequality.

Now Nelson Mandela is critically ill in hospital. More than two decades later I am now old enough to understand the role he played.

He is no saint but he tried his best to reconcile a nation that could have disintegrated into civil war - had things been different.

As people bring flowers and "get well soon" cards to the hospital in Pretoria where is being treated.... it reminds me of my late father.

Two days after Mandela's release in 1990, we drove to a cake store and my dad bought me a huge ice cream cake. It had many colours like a rainbow and my name on it!

He'd previously always refused to get ice cream cakes because he thought they were silly. They melted quickly.

It's a memory I will always cherish. I like to think of it as Mandela's release made my dad so happy he finally bought an ice cream cake.... not the usual flour cakes I always got on my birthday.

Mandela got his freedom in 1990, and a 10 year old girl got her ice cream cake.

That's a nice memory to have of a man South Africans call the father of the nation, Tata Madiba.