South Africa might have had an Indian-origin First Lady if Amina Cachalia had agreed to a proposal of marriage from the country’s first democratically elected President Nelson Mandela.
Mandela proposed to Amina, the widow of veteran ANC activist Yusuf Cachalia, after his 27 years of imprisonment and his marriage to Winnie Mandela ended. But she dismissed his declarations of love, she has written in her biography When Hope and History Rhyme.
Amina, who died last month aged 83, revealed an intimate and affectionate side to the relationship between her and lifelong family friend Mandela in the book released after her death.
Her children, Ghaleb and Coco Cachalia both confirmed that their mother had confided in them about Mandela’s marriage offer.
Mandela, 94, is currently in a Pretoria hospital being treated for a lung infection.
Amina and Yusuf Cachalia spent many years in India, where he headed the desk of the African National Congress (ANC) in exile.
In her book, Cachalia gives vivid descriptions of private visits to her apartment by Mandela and her visits to his office and residence.
Amina hailed from a family of activists. Her father, Ebrahim Asvat, was a companion of Gandhi during his stay in South Africa and was chairman of the Transvaal British Indian Association.