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.