We have been deeply saddened to hear that Queen Elizabeth II has passed away. We send heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family and to all those who regarded her as their Queen. She served her country tirelessly, consistently and with great dignity.
By his own admission, Nelson Mandela was an anglophile, and in the years after his release from prison cultivated a close relationship with the Queen. He hosted her in South Africa and visited her in England, taking particular delight in exploring Buckingham Palace. They also talked on the phone frequently, using their first names with each other as a sign of mutual respect as well as affection.
For Madiba it was important that the former colonial power in southern Africa should be drawn into cordial and productive relations with the newly democratic republic of South Africa. For the same reason, South Africa becoming a full member of the Commonwealth again after its long apartheid-era absence had a special significance.
In later life Madiba would often take pleasure in reminding interlocutors from Britain that South Africa had thrown off the colonial yoke. Equally he would ask anyone from Britain or anyone who had visited Britain the question, “And did you get to meet the Queen?” He would then take great delight in sharing anecdotes of his encounters with her and with the Palace.
Madiba also had a special name for the Queen, namely Motlalepula, which literally means to come with rain. As he explained in 1997 at a banquet for Prince Charles:
“We cherish fond memories of the Royal State Visit to South Africa by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1995. We regard it as a watershed in the historical relationship between our countries, now firm partners for peace and prosperity. As a token of our affection to Her Majesty, we conferred on her the name Motlalepula, because her visit coincided with torrential rains as we had not experienced in a long time. With the threat of El Nino, we would have welcomed her presence in this period even more. But we can rest content that a part of her soul and her magic is with us today.”
Madiba received numerous civic awards from British institutions, including, from Queen Elizabeth, the British Order of Merit, the Order of St John, and an honorary doctorate in law.
We join with many around the world in saying hamba kahle to the Queen. And we wish Prince Charles strength and fortitude as he takes on new responsibilities at this difficult time.