By Dr. MUNYONZWE HAMALENGWA
The good omen had started like a very bad omen. During the Christmas break of 2000, I decided to invite a Jamaican friend of mine to accompany me to a conference in South Africa organized by The International Society for the Reform of the Criminal Law, of which I was a member. Even though we had paid for our tickets many months before, when we got to the Pearson International Airport in Toronto, we were told that we were not on the list for that particular flight at all. In fact we were not on any flight at all. That had never happened to me before.
Every traveller knows the sinking feeling when there is a threat to your travel plans at the last minute. It felt like a very bad omen. We were looking forward to that trip. It would be my Jamaican friend’s first trip to the Motherland. How could this happen?
A bad omen was turned into a very good omen. I cannot tell whether it was due to my threat of a massive law suit I had promised to visit on the airline that brought about the good omen. Two spaces were found in first class for us. It was the first time I would ever be in first class. My friend and I drank our way to Zurich, absolutely happy campers.
When we got to Zurich, again we were not on any flight to Johannesburg. The issue of a massive law suit was again reiterated. How could we be flown out of Toronto without proper arranged passage to our known destination which was Johannesburg and then back to Toronto with all the inconveniences of now having to look for hotels, spend money we didn’t have and miss the pleasure of being with our families. The whole holiday would be ruined.
Suddenly, two spaces in first class again materialized. This bad omen was really turning into a really good omen. We landed in Johannesburg on cloud nine.
The good omen continued. Nelson Mandela was the keynote speaker at this conference. Despite the crush of humanity that wanted to be close to this charismatic giant, I miraculously found a seat right in the front row facing Mandela. When he finished his speech, he walked right towards the front row seats and shook hands with everybody including myself. My friend was right there taking very good photos of that historic moment. Just as I did in return. It was the best Christmas gift of my life. In fact, it is till today, the best Christmas holiday of my life.
I had done a lot of things for South Africa and created a lot of institutions named after Nelson Mandela, but I had never dreamt that I would actually shake hands with one of history’s giants.
Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa practices criminal law in Toronto.