Siv Ngesi chats to Lauren Lee Fischer about the time he met Madiba as well as the moment he decided to let him go…
Meeting Madiba must have been such an amazing honour! Tell us about the experience…
In 1995 I was doing a world tour of Les Misérables and Nelson was unable to make our opening night. My sister and I were asked to perform at his birthday for him. After we had performed and sung, he pointed right next to him. I sat down beside him and we had lunch. We just chilled together and chatted. What ended up happening though was my mother couldn’t get in to the venue. So I was in a rather interesting predicament – I had to choose between my mother and Madiba. I chose mother because I actually came out of her. Plus, if I didn’t chose her I would have been in jail for 27 years just like Madiba! Needless to say I picked freedom.
We think your mother owes you one! Nevertheless, were you nervous?
I’m nervous for every performance. I could be performing for two people, or I could be about to cuddle with a girl and I’d be nervous. I think nerves mean you actually give a damn about something. I was ten-years-old and about to perform to the most well-known brand second to Coca-Cola! The pressure was definitely on.
What was he like?
What I remember the most about him was his gentleness. His hands felt so soft – it was from working in the lime quarries when he was on Robben Island. They literally felt as if he had baby powder on them. I remember the bodyguard moving everyone out the way and he was like, “Uh uh – I’ve got this.” That was amazing. Meeting him was one of the most incredible moments of my life. The only thing I regret was not having an iphone5 on hand, I couldn’t take pics and Instagram them back then. I chill with Desmond Tutu quite a bit and every time I’m with him, he’s like, ‘No Siv, not another picture!’
Have you let Madiba go?
It’s taken me a while to get to this point but I’ve let him go. I think it’s time we all let him go. He’s lived his life, he’s done what he had to do for us and he’s gone beyond the call of duty. I think we must let him go in peace but you know, it’s hard – he’s been our everything.
My grandmother is 95-years-old and she’s as fresh as a fiddle –s he’s dying of boredom! When you get to a certain age you know it’s time to go.
If you could send Madiba a message, what would it be?
I think just a simple thank you. I think everyone has said everything and more to him. A few years ago I lived with an Afrikaans girl in America and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, this would have been illegal in the past!’ We were living together and we’re the best of friends. So thank you Madiba for the life that I lead, I had every opportunity possible. I think Madiba would appreciate the simplicity of my message. Madiba, I thank you!