By: Double Apex
The former head of strategic planning and public affairs at BMW South Africa Chris Moerdyk recounts the funny story of President Mandela’s extended test drive of a BMW 7 Series:
In the early 1990s, my job as head of strategic planning at BMW South Africa became a little more important than very ‘strategically’ planning to just happen to be in the neighbourhood of St Andrew’s in Scotland around about the time the Open Championship was being played. Or, trying to develop a five-year plan without actually knowing what the social, political or economic environment was going to be like by tea time the following day.
Anyway, an important part of our corporate strategic plan in those days centred around the man who was going to become the new president of South Africa. On one hand, it did not take rocket science to know that under his leadership South Africa would prosper. As a result multi-nationals such as BMW would be able to start exporting from this country at long last.
But, there was also a rather chilling reality that in the heated build-up to the 1994 elections. There would be some people in South Africa who would not want to see Mandela as president. Therefore, the prospect of his assassination could not be discounted. So, in the interests of the future of South Africa and to prevent the collapse of business through this sort of calamity, we decided that it was far too dangerous for Mandela to just be driven around in an ordinary car.
We obtained permission from the head office in Germany to give him an armoured BMW 7 Series. It was complete with bullet-resistant windows and bodywork. I had its own oxygen supply and run-flat tyres. It even has gun ports through which his bodyguards could stick two machine guns stored in a little compartment above the sun visors and blast any attackers to kingdom come.