Sunday, 24 July 2011

Barlinnie unlocked: Gaddafi Cafe gets a world famous guest

[This is the headline over a story in today's edition of the Sunday Mail (not to be confused with the Mail on Sunday). I reproduce it here simply because it links Abdelbaset Megrahi and South Africa, my second home.]

Huge crowds greeted Nelson Mandela as he travelled from South Africa to meet Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

He met the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in 2002 on a diplomatic excursion to see how he was being treated.

The former president of South Africa also discussed a campaign for Megrahi to serve his sentence in a Libyan prison.

Everyone who has met Mandela speaks of his kindness, gentleness and good manners.

His visit to Gaddafi's Cafe, the nickname given to the area of Barlinnie where Megrahi was held, underlined the humanity of the man.

After all, Mandela himself spent 18 of his 27 years in jail on Robben Island after being locked up by the South Africa's apartheid government.

Most of the crowd hoping to meet him were positioned around the reception and the main gates. Everyone on the staff wanted a glimpse of the great man. The wellwishers were rows deep.

But as he passed through the throng, Mandela stopped, looked to the edge of the crowd and spotted a young prison officer right at the back.

He said: "You sir, step down here."

When the officer got to the front, Mandela shook his hand, giving him a moment he would never forget.

Mandela remarked that he, too, knew what it was like to be at the back row and not noticed.

The great leader then went inside to meet Megrahi.

But he declined an offer to visit the cell blocks.

Mandela had seen enough to last a lifetime.

[My South African friends are in mourning over the miserable Springbok performance in yesterday's match against the Wallabies. In the bar at Gannaga Lodge while the game was in progess I greatly expanded my knowledge of demotic Afrikaans. Every cloud has a silver lining.]


  1. Not clear why this article is in the Sunday Mail today.(Am I missing something?)

  2. It's a mystery to me, blogiston. It's not even as if it were an anniversary. The Mandela visit was on 10 June 2002.

  3. It might have something to do with Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday party on 18 July 2011 (to which the visiting David Cameron was expressly not invited)!