A Tanzanian woman who kept Mandela’s boots for 33 years dies

VICKY Nsilo Swai, a woman who kept Nelson Mandela’s pair of leather boots for 33 years, will be laid to rest tomorrow, Tuesday June 15, 2021 in her home town, Machame Nkuu in Moshi, Kilimanjaro.

She passed away on June 01, 2021 but burial ceremonies had to delay to wait for some of her family members living abroad.

On January 22, 1962, Nelson Mandela secretly left the pair of boots in Tanzania only to return and collect them on December 12, 1995.

 Vicky and her husband, the late minister Nsilo Swai, were visited by activist Mandela on his way to overseas through Tanzania, and he left a luggage and the pair of boots that were never collected until when he visited Tanzania as president in 1995. He was released from jail 1990.

Vicky will be remembered for her narrations on how she kept the pair of boots for so long to let Mandela find them as ‘new’ as he had left them.

Here are her narrations:

On the day Mandela was leaving, he had to leave behind a suitcase because he had too much luggage. In the suitcase was a pair of brown, leather boots. My husband and I ended up keeping them for 33 years.

 “After my husband retired from politics, we moved from Dar es Salaam to Moshi, near to Kilimanjaro – and the boots came with us.

 “Then, my husband got a job with the United Nations so the boots lived in New York for 15 years.

I kept them in our bedroom in a cupboard. I never polished them, I never cleaned them but I put newspaper in them to keep them firm.

The boots are very strong and the leather is excellent – and when I took them back to Mr Mandela in 1995 they were really like new.

 “The boots still fitted Mr Mandela and he joked that ‘these boots have travelled more than myself’.

A lot of people are surprised why I kept the boots for so long. But I really wanted a man who I saw so dedicated to his country to have a memory of these boots.”

 SAUTI KUBWA wishes her a good sendoff tomorrow, and may her soul continue to rest in eternal peace!