by Silvana Rivella

JOHANNESBURG – SOUTH AFRICA. 2018 is a significant year in South African history and across the world as it is the centenary year of the country’s greatest leader, Nelson Mandela, born July 18, 1918. And it has been a significant journey for H.S.H. Princess Charlene of Monaco, back in the country for the celebrations, culminating on Nelson Mandela’s birthday. It is also the occasion for me, in my quality of deputy-director of, to personally report the extraordinary visit Princess Charlene paid to the prestigious, Jack Nicklaus signature Houghton Golf Club, which coincidentally is close to where I stay in Johannesburg when visiting the city. It happened on 18 July, whilst H.S.H was on her way to celebrate the centenary at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, whose location in the Houghton Estate is close to the Golf Course.




During the days of celebrations to mark what would have been Madiba’s 100th birthday, Princess Charlene rubbed shoulders with local and international dignitaries and celebrities. Her scheduled program in Johannesburg since her arrival, was as follow:

On Wednesday, July 14, after visiting several orphanages in Benoni to commemorate the Mandela Day, she temporarily traded her palace in Monaco for one in Kempton Park, the Emperors Palace. The conference room of this prestigious venue was buzzing with journalists and excited guests. For many, it has been an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have tea with a real-life princess, who met with several media outlets and was thanked by representatives of several charities who were present and reap the benefit of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation.

Representatives of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, also shared a few words of gratitude at the tea. H.S.H. Princess Charlene of Monaco and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu have been patrons of The Giving Organisation Trust for seven years. “Non-profit organisations have been hard hit as the global economic crisis has left a funding crisis that impacts hundreds of thousands needy South Africans, said Charlene when she took to the stage to personally speak on behalf of her Foundation and engage guests on the importance of its work. She also divulged details on her participation in the Nelson Mandela centenary celebrations, alongside other globally recognised public figures including Sir Richard Branson, President Barack Obama and The Elders to name just a few: “We need to keep his legacy alive,” the princess said. During her speech, she also said: “I want to meet with the Elders and listen to Nelson Mandela’s lecture.” The Elders were brought together by Nelson Mandela 11 years ago, and in that time have become a global force working together for peace and human rights. “They spoke so eloquently about the causes they are so passionate about. They are already making a real difference,” princess Charlene said during her speech at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton Estate on 18 July.

Princess Charlene speech at the Nelson Mandela Foundation

H.S.H Princess Charlene of Monaco is committed to using her influence for the greater good of South Africa through her philanthropic efforts and her Foundation, whose main objective is to save lives by putting an end to drowning, which is a quite neglected and a major public health problem worldwide.

Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death, accounting for 9% of all injury-related deaths. Children, particularly in low and middle-income countries, are at the highest risk and Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene is passionate about using her position as a platform to promote water safety.


She also announced that she is bringing the “Water Bike Challenge” to South Africa to take place in Cape Town, on 17 February 2019, as part of her efforts to raise funds and awareness for the Foundation. I am returning on February 2019 for the water bike challenge. It’s always great to come back home,” the Princess said with a smile. “Swimming always gave me lots of opportunities to travel the world, so it is my duty to give back to my country and those less fortunate than myself.” The challenge is an annual event attended by famous people from across the globe, which started in Monaco and is currently in its second year. Among the 110 participants involved in the challenge, both John Smit and Stefan Terblanche, South African Rugby Legends (SARLA) were in attendance, representing the organisation’s consistent support of the Foundation.

From left to right: Mr. Gavin Varejes, President of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation South Africa, Mr. Ryk Neethling, Ms. Nerine Pienaar, Mr. François Pienaar, rugby World Champion with the Springboks, HSH Princess Charlene, Mr. Gareth Wittstock, Ms. Agnès Falco, Secretary General of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation © Eric Mathon

“The race was thrilling, exhilarating and full of intense energy,” said South African Olympic gold medallist swimmer Ryk Neethling, CEO of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation South Africa and Ambassador of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation that includes Ambassadors like tennis player Novak Djokovic, local legend Francois Pienaar, F1 champion Nico Rosberg and many more. Representative of the philosophy and values of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, the Water Bike Challenge South Africa will be an illustration of a perfect partnership. “An event of this nature and distinction, supported personally by Her Serene Highness, Princess Charlene, will literally equate to countless life-changing transformational opportunities, which, under regular circumstances would be impossible to achieve,” added Ryk Neethling.

All proceeds of the race event will be awarded to the Foundation to ensure the realisation of the sporting dreams of many young children. The 2018 gala event, held at the Yacht Club de Monaco, included an auction featuring both unique and unusual items and raised more than a million euros. Stefan Terblanche, President, SARLA, was quoted saying that “The impact of these funds, combined with the fundraising efforts of the race, will change many lives globally and ensure the continuation of the incredible work by the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation”. While her stay in South Africa, princess Charlene was also overjoyed to be able to spend some pleasing moments with her family. Originally from Zimbabwe, her parents reside in Benoni, a very quaint, safe and child friendly suburb of Greater Johannesburg and the princess enjoys her time there. “Benoni is home, it is familiar to me and I will always come back,” she says.


She definitely would never forget her roots, and makes a point of having South Africa as a sort of second “hub” for her Foundation’s activity.


On Tuesday, July 17, H.S.H. attended “The Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture” at Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg. A crowd of 10.000 has gathered at the venue to witness former U.S. president Barack Obama deliver the annual Nelson Mandela lecture, one of the Foundation’s flagship programmes to honour its founder, Nelson Mandela. Every year since 2003, global leaders have used the lecture to raise topical issues affecting South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world.

On Wednesday, July 18 around 1 pm, the Houghton Golf Club welcomed Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco whilst on her way to celebrate the centenary with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson at the Nelson Mandela Foundation Centre of Memory, located in the Houghton Estate, where Mandela worked from the end of his presidency in 1999 to the end of his public service in 2004. “It was an absolute pleasure to meet this wonderful lady,” said the President of the Houghton Golf Club Adrian Diamond, who had previously granted permission to the Princess’ helicopter to make an easy landing in the Houghton Golf Club’s practice ground’s vastness. “Meeting Princess Charlene of Monaco: one of the perks of being the President of Houghton Golf Club.” Adrian Diamond added with a broad smile. “It just so happens that our beautiful Golf Course is situated in Lower Houghton, actually close to the Nelson Mandela Foundation Houghton Estate.”

The helicopter had the opportunity to park on the turf for as long as Princess Charlene remained at the Mandela Center of Memory, before flying her back to her previous destination. Certainly, spending some time in Club House, chatting amiably with the president of the Golf, Adrian Diamond, was for the princess a pleasant and relaxing moment in her days of fire. Very kind and available as always, Charlene then posed for several “souvenir” pictures also with Roxanne Reeves, Sales & Marketing Manager, and Vivienne Cross, Membership & Events Coordinator at Houghton Golf Club.

On 07/18/2018 Her Serene Highness the Princess Charlene of Monaco was welcomed at Houghton G.C. by the President of the Club Adrian Diamond
07/18/2108 HSH Princess Charlene with Roxanne Reeves, Sales & Marketing Manager, and Vivienne Cross, Membership & Events Coordinator at Houghton Golf Club.

Then, two luxury cars embedded with the Princess of Monaco monogram that had been parked close to the landing, brought Princess Charlene and her escort to the Nelson Mandela Foundation whose location, as I said before, is just a few minutes away, then back to the waiting helicopter. Now many in the Houghton Club House wonder whether the Monegasque Royal’s visit’s high point could result in a charity event on behalf of Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation to be hosted in this wonderful golf course on February 2019… just before or just after the Water Bike Challenge in Cape Town… The Princess may live a world away; she still supports so many local causes!  Please watch this video!

Exactly one year ago, on July 2017, South Africa’s very own princess was pleased to wearing a bright, luscious green evening dress embellished with a Beaded Collar, during the IAAF Meeting  in Monaco. The eastern Cape Xhosa, Zulu and Ndebele of South Africa have a long history of beadwork. The uses of beaded garments, bags, jewelry and objects continue until today in the rural areas. Up to date both men and women were seen wearing such collars during ceremonies. In a light-hearted interview to Kgaugelo Masweneng of Sunday Times on July 2018‚ Princess Charlene also said that her 3-year-old twins‚ Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella‚ were learning a few Zulu words as part of keeping them in touch with their African roots.

Finally, before leaving and flying back to Monaco, on Sunday, July 22 Charlene made a brief stopover at the Lahee Park swimming precinct for more than a spiritual mission. After all, Her Royal Highness the princess trained at that venue for eight years under the guidance of internationally acclaimed swimming coach Graham Hill. When her helicopter landed on one of the outer fields at the sports complex, a throng of people gathered to catch a glimpse of the princess. Still on the celebrations’ theme, in honour of Madiba’s legacy while supporting a good cause, the Nelson Mandela Foundation launched a locally made Nelson Mandela Centenary t-shirt. According to the Foundation, buying the t-shirt will help support the perpetuation of Madiba’s legacy through the Foundation.

South Africa-based multinational retail company Woolworths HL also was proud to support the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s “Be the Legacy’ campaign.” “100 000 Mandela Day bags have been produced locally using recycled plastic with the aim of raising R1 million to scale up the important work of Caring4Girls.” said Zinzi Mgolodela, Woolworths Head of Corporate Affairs.


Other ways to commemorate Madiba are graffiti, like i.e. the gigantic murals in Johannesburg, London and Milan, the 6-meter Madiba statue in Sandton, and of course the famous Johnny Clegg’s 1987 “Asimbonanga”, a beautiful reminder to everyone that Mandela did not only touch the hearts of South Africans but everyone across the world. Please watch this viral youtube video   featuring the winners of the 2014 MySchool Choir competition from Riebeek College Girls’ High in Uitenhage, South Africa. Here, Johnny Clegg teaches the song to the future generation and to call upon them to make Madiba’s dream for a thriving, united and democratic South Africa visible.


Main sources: Benoni City Times – SundayTimes – Nelson Mandela Foundation – Woolworths Holdings Limited – Houghton Golf Club


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