A file photo taken on July 18, 2003 shows former South African President Nelson Mandela saluting the South African military health service band that came to play a specially composed march and happy birthday on his 85th birthday. *AFP photo
A file photo taken on July 18, 2003 shows former South African President Nelson Mandela saluting the South African military health service band that came to play a specially composed march and happy birthday on his 85th birthday. *AFP photo

A prominent Bermudian lawyer has relived her encounters with Nelson Mandela in the wake of the great man’s death.

Dianna Kempe headed the International Bar Association when she met with Mandela at his Pretoria home.

She went on to meet him on a number of subsequent occasions in Africa, and says she was always deeply struck by his ability to connect with the average person.

Ms Kempe told the Sun: “The first time I met him was with around 40 bar association leaders from all parts of Africa, about two years after his release from prison.

“He had probably never met any of these people before, but the most extraordinary thing was the way he was able to talk and interact with each one of them.

“He spoke to everyone and he found a connection in their country to a person or place or something.

“For me it was incredible to witness, but my feelings were nothing in comparison to watching the reactions of these other bar association leaders who considered him a God.

“His ability to connect was just unbelievable.

“I just sat more awestruck by each conversation.”

Ms Kempe said that the way in which Mandela battled adversity was still very relevant in Bermuda today.

She added: “He was as far as I am concerned the most special person I ever met.

“I will always remember a quote from his book which says: ‘As I walked out of the door towards my freedom, I knew that if I did not leave anger, bitterness and hatred behind me that I would still be in prison’.

“I think if we could all take this attitude into our life today, we would all be in a much better place.

“Nelson Mandela was someone who once you met him, he would never forget you.

“Now he has gone we need to remember the man and his work, but also learn from the lead he has left us.”