100 years of Nelson Mandela. How employees of Mercedes-Benz South Africa built a car for “Tata”

Can one single minute change the history and the destiny of a country forever? Many South Africans would answer this question with yes – and have a particular minute in mind: On February 11, 1990, at exactly 4.14 pm, Nelson Mandela, the man who fought against Apartheid and became the country’s first black president only four years later, walks out of the prison gate. After 27 years, “Prisoner Number One” is released into freedom. It is the moment that makes possible all the revolutionary changes that should happen in South Africa in the following years and decades.

In remembrance of this very minute, the website “Beautiful News” was launched back in 2016. The blog follows a simple principle: Every day at 4.14 pm, one happy news story from anywhere in the world is published on the site – even on those days when all other headlines will not make you smile. The site’s operators say that this way they want to remind people of the positive energy that was caused by what happened on February 11, 1990, at 4.14 pm.

Mercedes-Benz South Africa has been partner of “Beautiful News” since the site’s launch – and one of the company’s beautiful stories has also made it into their headlines a while ago:

On the occasion of the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on July 18, 2018, the editorial team of daimler.com asked a member of the workforce at the Mercedes-Benz plant in East London about his personal memories of manufacturing Nelson Mandela’s red S-Class back in 1990. “The day after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison was a Monday. When the morning shift clocked in, the mood was not business as usual,” remembers Christopher Ngqandu, Team Manager for Production Quality in East London, “Mandela’s release meant change.” In this mood, one of the employees stood up in the canteen and proposed that all of the plant’s employees should build a car for Nelson Mandela – who is referred to as “Tata” in the isiXhosa language. And the more they spoke about this idea, the more the employees got excited and agreed to the proposal.

Until today, the building of the red S-Class is said to have been an act of both: of labor and of love. After all, employees manufactured it in voluntary extra shifts. “During the production of the car, you could see and feel the excited energy all around the plant. Employees were excited to be here and worked until 7 pm, because we were motivated, passionate, and proud of what we were building,” remembers Christopher Ngqandu: “Nelson taught me that people are equal and during the production of the Mandela Car, we were one; united; here in the plant. One of the things I admired about him, was his ability to fight and believe in peace, without that this country would not be what it is today.”

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