SOUTH AFRICAN President Nelson Mandela paid a state visit last November to ISKCON's Sri Sri Radha-Radhanatha Temple of Understanding in Durban. More than five thousand people were on hand to welcome Mr. Mandela, whose visit marked the annual Indian Diwali festival, also known as "the Festival of Lights."
Before addressing the audience, the President toured the temple, garlanded the form of Srila Prabhupada, and respectfully bowed his head to the floor. He also viewed the Deities, as the temple filled with the sound of devotees chanting Hare Krsna.
In his address Mr. Mandela encouraged the Indian community to work with his government for peace and harmony in the new South Africa.
Especially impressed by the ISKCON temple's Food for Life program, which feeds five thousand people a day, Mr. Mandela, scheduled to stay only one hour, cancelled another official engagement and stayed nearly three.
Mr. Mandela took a full meal at Govinda's Restaurant with the thirty members of his entourage, including American Consul General Pamela Bridgewater. After the meal, devotees presented a copy of Prabhupada's Science of Self-Realization to the President and everyone in his group.
This was the first official visit by a South African President to a Vedic temple.