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They call her Madiba’s twin, but she has never met the former president.
Dinah Adonis turned 94 on Wednesday, celebrating the event with her friends and family at the Starck Old Age Home in Hanover Park, while across the world millions of people wished Nelson Mandela a happy birthday.
Adonis said she was proud to share her birthday with a man she admired.
“He spent all those years in prison, being punished for things he didn’t do. At the end he could still stand up.”
But while they share the same birthday, their lives couldn’t be more different. Where Mandela was born into the traditional life of a small village in the Eastern Cape, Adonis found herself in a settlement in Malmesbury.
Her father worked on cars, while her mother washed clothes for the neighbouring white community.
With her parents working day and night, it fell to Adonis, the oldest of four, to look after them. At age six she was already cooking for her siblings.
In 1933, at 15, Adonis began work as a receptionist for the local surgery. It was there she became aware of the outside world, reading the doctor’s newspapers between phone calls.
She left Malmesbury for Cape Town, and took a job baking cakes.
Adonis, who has lost her husband, said she has always embraced the world with a “jolly-go-lucky” attitude.
“You will never see me with a frown.”
She remembered when apartheid’s hold began to loosen, and how excited she was when she heard Mandela had been released.
Now, she is thankful she still has her mind. That she can remember the years that have come before and every birthday she has shared with Madiba.
“She has a birthday card Mandela sent her on her 90th birthday,” said Myrtle Christian, the chairperson of her residence. “She keeps it in a very safe place.”