Phillip Groom from Mercedes-Benz South Africa presents Madiba with the red 500SE in 1990.
Phillip Groom from Mercedes-Benz South Africa presents Madiba with the red 500SE in 1990.

East London - Paying tribute to a legacy that defined a country, Mercedes-Benz South Africa has produced a two-minute video highlighting the special moments and ties the company has had with Nelson Mandela.

The video traces the story of the top-of-the-range Mercedes 500SE that was built as a gift  for Madiba to celebrate his release from prison in 1990 after 27 years of incarceration. Workers at the Mercedes-Benz factory in East London built the car in their spare time for no pay and the company donated the parts and facilities, and it took four days to produce this very special vehicle.

The bright red Benz was marked with a plaque announcing it as Mandela's car, sported an engraving of the South African flag, and had a personalised license plate inscribed with "999 NRM GP" - the NRM standing for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Footage from the plant shows workers dancing and singing in celebration as they work on the car, which was presented to Mandela on 22 July 1990 by company worker Philip Groom at the Sisa Dukashe stadium in Mdantsane.

“The Mercedes-Benz SA team made more than a car for Madiba – they made a symbol of pride and togetherness,” says a Mercedes-Benz SA spokesman. “Today on what would have been his 100th birthday, we honour the great man.”

Madiba’s Mercedes 500SE now resides at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

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