"Each encounter with Mandela is a humbling experience,? says Desre Buirski the designer of the now famous Madiba shirt.
"What rings through is all the drive and energy he has for other people and his desire for South Africans to be able to love each other and shrug aside the colour barrier.
?Meeting Madiba has provided a motivation for me to want to make a difference in our society. I have started a new division of my existing business? I want to link it to one or two other organisations in such a way that we would be able to help children with education.
?Meeting Madiba has impacted me in an extraordinary way, he is an extraordinary man. He has impacted millions of people, but I have been especially blessed because I have been able to dress the man with these beautiful shirts.?
At school, at the shops
While many of us have not been lucky enough to meet Madiba even once, Mark Johnston has met him on two occasions. The first time was at school, but he admits he was too young to feel the full impact of a Madiba-meeting. It was election time and Nelson Mandela arrived to vote at the school, Mark sang in the choir that greeted him and they ?all got to shake Madiba?s hand afterwards?.
The second meeting was ?far more incredible?, says Mark. It was 2002 and he was browsing in Exclusive Books in Claremont, Cape Town, when all of a sudden the shop doors were closed. Mark carried on browsing, but stopped when he heard that voice because ?you can?t mistake Madiba?s voice?, and there Mandela was in the aisle next to him.
What followed was ?the most amazing time as it was so out of routine, he was casually dressed in a T-shirt and jeans and listened to everyone so carefully?.
"The shop doors stayed closed for 15 minutes and the 50-or-so customers in the shop all gathered around Mandela. It was a mind-blowing experience and a very personal encounter as Mandela was totally natural and interacted with the people.?
He shared snippets about his life and answered questions, but he also listened to people carefully and asked his own questions. When a shopper told him that she planned to become a lawyer like him, he quipped: ?Don?t do that.?
?I didn?t shake his hand this time, I stood to the side because I?d been lucky enough to shake his hand before,? says Mark, ?but I couldn?t have asked for a better encounter with Mandela?.
On the plane
?I was flying from Cape Town to Joburg on a normal SAA flight when it happened,? Simon Black says of his Madiba encounter.
"We were bussed out to the plane and asked to wait while a passenger was assisted on board. It was only as we all got on that we realised exactly who had been hoisted onto the plane in the lift ? it was Madiba.
"He was sitting in the front of the plane as we all got on and each and every person in front of me in the queue stopped to shake his hand and say a few words ? and he put up with it!
?I stopped and just said ?thank you?. It was a huge moment for me.
?When we landed the captain came over the air and said: ?As you probably all know we have a very special traveller on board, would you mind staying seated as he gets off.? The plane just erupted when he finished speaking, everyone was clapping and cheering. The cheering was indicative of the mood on board for the entire flight, we were all honoured to be in the presence of such greatness.?
iafrica.com staffers meet Madiba
?It was a Saturday afternoon in November 1998 and the newsroom was quiet except for the drawl of CNN presenters. Two colleagues and I were on duty that day and had only one thing to look forward to ? the company year-end staff party later that evening. And then the beeper went: Mandela is in Athlone on the Cape Flats.
"I wasn't really dressed to meet the president; but dungarees and takkies were as good as it was going to get. So I grabbed my soundbag, an extra set of batteries and off I went.
"Mandela was a guest speaker at the former Hewitt's Teachers' Training College in Athlone, a landmark on the struggle map. He had come to speak to the residents of Athlone, custodians of the famous Klipfontein road that had licked the blood of many during apartheid altercations.
"I remember getting my recorder's leads in a twist and almost filing my story too late, nearly missing the bulletin. I didn't get to shake his hand, but I was in his presence, and that was enough. And when I was late for the staff party that night, I had good reason to - I had been hanging with Madiba.?
?At the risk of showing my age (or lack thereof) I graduated from UCT at the same time ? and, in fact, the same ceremony ? as one of Mandela?s stepsons. I remember long queues to get into Jamieson Hall on a balmy December afternoon and everyone having to go through a metal detector ? I assumed it was simply a standard security precaution, and none of us realised there was something special in the air.
?Once we?d all filed into the hall and taken our seats, the dean of Humanities announced we had a special guest ? Madiba himself had come to watch his wife?s son receive his degree in social science. And suddenly everyone, the entire hall, stood up and spontaneously begin cheering and clapping, as Mandela walked in.
?It was the first time I?d ever seen Mandela in the flesh and I was surprised at how small he seemed, how frail he clearly was, leaning on a walking stick and supported by his assistants.
?Graca Machel is the Chancellor of UCT and she capped the graduates herself. I got a whispered ?well done? from her when I went up, and her son received an enormous hug!
?It?s a small memory, but it?s mine nonetheless, my special moment.?