Rumours had been growing over weeks. Finally an announcement was made. I dropped everything to join a huge crowd waiting for him in front of the Cape Town City Hall.
There was a tremendous surge of feeling. Like many others I'd lost friends and neighbours to political violence during the dark years of apartheid. The hope for the future that I and so many others felt that day rippled through the crowd.
The branches of the trees in front of the Town Hall were stripped by people climbing them to get a better view. People were literally falling from the trees, which began to resemble bare scarecrows.
Finally we managed to see and hear the father of a nation that had yet to be born. A man who was barely recognisable to us (as no photos had been published of him for so long), and yet who seemed so familiar to most South Africans.
A few years later I had the opportunity to meet Mandela. He wanted to chat briefly about his daughters, who had been at school with me in Swaziland.
Like many others I was struck by his powerful presence. What struck me too was the ease and balance with which he was able to talk about personal matters to someone who was essentially a stranger. In my mind, one of the marks of a great man.