I met Nelson Mandela in 1993. He had been out of jail 3 years, and would be President of South Africa one year later, from 1994 to 1999.
He was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as part of a trip around the globe meeting world leaders, and preparing for the South African election campaign. I was on the 18th floor of an office tower in KL, walking along the corridor with a business associate, and heading towards the lifts. We saw him coming down the corridor with two bodyguards. Nelson and his bodyguards suddenly stopped, and went into an alcove where there were two young Indian girls, most likely junior secretaries. He stopped to shake their hands.
There was no press around, and in Malaysia at that time, Indians were a minority looked down on by the Malays. Nelson Mandela continued down the corridor. When he and his guards saw me and my colleague, the bodyguards tensed, presumably in case we were extremists planning to kill him. One of the guards put his hand up to his chest. I guess if I had reached for my wallet at that moment I would be dead. (Seriously). As Nelson and his guards reached the lift, I put out my hand and said, 'Good luck in the Election'. Nelson said 'Thank you', and shook my hand. Then they entered the lift and the door shut. We didn't even think to enter the same lift as them. Later I thought about the young Indian secretaries, and his effect on them. They recognised him, and were so excited. I think he was reaching out to them, inspiring them. Not for the cameras, but for them individually, and genuinely. That’s the kind of man he was. He died on 5th December 2013.