Mandela's legacy continues to bloom in Singapore

Mr Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, at a lunch hosted by Mr Goh Chok Tong, then Singapore prime minister, in 1997. It has been more than 16 years since Mr Mandela set foot in Singapore and left his mark with a hybrid orchid that bears
Mr Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, at a lunch hosted by Mr Goh Chok Tong, then Singapore prime minister, in 1997. It has been more than 16 years since Mr Mandela set foot in Singapore and left his mark with a hybrid orchid that bears his name. -- ST FILE PHOTO: LIM SIM THAI
Mr Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, and his wife Graca Machel (right) during a visit to Singapore. It has been more than 16 years since Mr Mandela set foot in Singapore in 1997 and left his mark with a hybrid orchid that bears his
Mr Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, and his wife Graca Machel (right) during a visit to Singapore. It has been more than 16 years since Mr Mandela set foot in Singapore in 1997 and left his mark with a hybrid orchid that bears his name. -- ST FILE PHOTO: WONG POK SEE
Then Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong and Mr Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, at Tuynhuys, Capetown in 1997. They later joined the Singapore delegation for discussions. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSO CHAN
Then Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong and Mr Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, at Tuynhuys, Capetown in 1997. They later joined the Singapore delegation for discussions. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSO CHAN
Then Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong welcoming Mr Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, during his one-hour stop-over in Singapore en route to South Africa in 1995 after official visits to Japan and South Korea. -- ST
Then Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong welcoming Mr Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, during his one-hour stop-over in Singapore en route to South Africa in 1995 after official visits to Japan and South Korea. -- ST FILE PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN 
Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and South Africa President Nelson Mandela. It has been more than 16 years since Mr Mandela set foot in Singapore in 1997 and left his mark with a hybrid orchid that bears his name. -- FILE PHOTO:
Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and South Africa President Nelson Mandela. It has been more than 16 years since Mr Mandela set foot in Singapore in 1997 and left his mark with a hybrid orchid that bears his name. -- FILE PHOTO: MITA
National Parks Board chief executive officer Tan Wee Kiat (left) placing a plaque to mark the Vandaenopsis Nelson Mandela orchid, a hybrid named after Mr Mandela (right), while Board chairman Tan Keong Choon (centre) applauds. The event took place du
National Parks Board chief executive officer Tan Wee Kiat (left) placing a plaque to mark the Vandaenopsis Nelson Mandela orchid, a hybrid named after Mr Mandela (right), while Board chairman Tan Keong Choon (centre) applauds. The event took place during Mr Mandela's visit to Singapore in 1997. -- ST FILE PHOTO WONG POK SEE 

It has been more than 16 years since Mr Nelson Mandela set foot in Singapore and left his mark with a hybrid orchid that bears his name.

Mr Mandela’s state visit to Singapore in March 1997 – the first by a South African head of state – was part of a regional tour to further his country’s ties with South-east Asia.

He met the late President Ong Teng Cheong, then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

During the two-day trip, he also visited the Port of Singapore Authority and the National Orchid Garden, where an orchid with a bright yellow hue and a blush of red was named after him.

Dozens of Singaporeans and tourists gathered around to greet and chat with Mr Mandela and then-travelling companion Graca Machel, the widow of former Mozambique president Samora Machel, at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Mr Mandela married Ms Machel in 1998.

Apart from welcoming him with flowers, Mr Mandela also became the first dignitary in Singapore to have a tree dedicated to commemorate his visit here. It was perhaps fitting that the tree, a Cola gigantea or Giant Cola, is a native of tropical West Africa.

The anti-apartheid icon also delivered the 16th Singapore Lecture on the topic of “South and Southern Africa into the Next Century” at the Shangri-La Hotel, where then-Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan described him as a “living legend”.

His humility was apparent, as were his charm, charisma and wit as he took questions from the audience.

At the state banquet hosted by Mr Ong, Mr Mandela described Singapore as one of the leading nations of the late 20th century.

He said the Republic’s recipe of good governance, sound economic policies and investment in people made this possible.

“It is this holistic approach that we in South Africa want to emulate and implement in order to improve the lives of our people,” he had said.

esthert@sph.com.sg