When Mandela snubbed Kenyan delegation
What you need to know:
- The plane left to refuel, and journalists later learnt that the South African officials told Mr Musyoka that Mr Mandela was asleep "after a long tiring journey".
Former South African President Nelson Mandela once failed to get out of an airplane to meet a delegation led by then Foreign Affairs Minister Kalonzo Musyoka that had gone to receive him at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
On the afternoon of Kenyatta Day in 1997, the Kenyan designation was reported to have waited in vain to welcome Mr Mandela, who had stopped over in Nairobi on the way to Egypt.
The South African’s airplane been expected to touch down at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 12.30pm that day and arrangements, including rolling out an official red carpet, had been completed.
With Mr Musyoka were Head of the Africa Desk at the Foreign Affairs Ministry Mr Bruce Madete, Chief of Protocol Frost Josiah and South African High Commissioner Mr Grifiths Memela.
When the plane landed, Mr Josiah and Mr Memela entered it. The former was informed by President Mandela's aides that he was resting and in no position to get off the airplane. He did not get to speak to the president though.
The plane left to refuel, and journalists later learnt that the South African officials told Mr Musyoka that Mr Mandela was asleep "after a long tiring journey".
Afterwards, Mr Memela announced that Mr Mandela was not in a position to alight from the plane, saying, "He did not think the stop-over would be long enough for him to come out of the plane". The stopover lasted for about 45 minutes.
Mr Memela also stated that the act should not be misinterpreted as Kenya and South Africa’s relation was still strong and cordial, and that Mr Mandela had promised to call President Moi from Egypt "to extend his courtesy".
Mr Musyoka, on the other hand, commented that what took place should not be misconstrued as negative "as relations between the two countries are still strong".
Newspaper reports reported that some time before during another stopover, Mr Mandela was kept waiting for top ministry officials during another stopover.
Interestingly, Mr Thambo Mbeki, Mr Mandela’s successor, would repeat the move about two years later as Internal Security Minister Mr Julius Sunkuli led a delegation to welcome him at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on his first trip as president to Kenya.
A red carpet was ready too in this case.
Mr Sunkuli had earlier excused himself from a press conference for then Mozambican President Joachim Chissano, who like Mr Mbeki was on his way to Tripoli to attend a four-day Organisation of African Unity meeting.
But after some 10 minutes of waiting on the runway, Mr Parks Mankhalana, the South African spokesman at the time, came out to apologise:
"The President is asleep and he can't be woken up; he has been literally working today until 5am".
Mr Sunkuli accepted the explanation and said he completely understood what happened.