SHE had smiled and posed for photographs on the red carpet and then enjoyed an animated conversation with the Duchess of Cambridge.
And if Zindzi Mandela had any idea that her father’s long life was drawing to a close, she did not betray it for a minute.
Then, in a single instance, everything changed. As she was about to watch the London premiere of his incredible story, she was told that the 95-year-old had died peacefully at home after months of illness. Tearful and flustered, she sat down and tried to compose herself. But asked if she wanted the film - Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom - to continue, she said yes.
According to the Daily Mail of UK, it was an extraordinary premiere. Few in the Odeon auditorium in Leicester Square knew what had happened and settled down to enjoy an evening celebrating one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were informed of his death discreetly by an aide shortly before the end of the movie.
It was only after the credits had rolled that the film’s producer, Anant Singh, got on the stage to break the news to the rest of the audience. There were screams and gasps of shock while some burst into tears. A two-minute silence was held.
Eleanor Simmonds, 54, from Croydon, who was at the premiere to support a Mandela charity, said: “There was an audible sharp intake of breath. It was shocking news to hear at the end of the film. Everyone was shocked. It was really, really sad news because it was a wonderful evening.”
William and Kate looked ashen-faced as they walked down the stairs into the foyer. Speaking as he left the Odeon Cinema, the Duke said: “I just wanted to say it’s extremely sad and tragic news. We were just reminded what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was.
“My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. It’s very sad.”
Shortly after the royal couple left, shocked members of the audience began emerging from the cinema, in silence at first.
The cast, whose after-show party was promptly cancelled, were too upset to speak. In the foyer, security men surrounded Naomie Harris, who plays his wife, Winnie, as she walked slowly past, head down and close to tears.
In a statement, Idris Elba, who is tipped for an Oscar for his portrayal of the great man, said in a statement: “What an honour it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
John Battersby, 65, a South African journalist who knew Mandela personally and wrote the afterword to his authorised biography, said: “My daughter told me just before the announcement. Apparently he died half an hour before the film started.
“My phone was buzzing in my pocket but I just thought ‘who is calling me in the Mandela premiere? In the protection of the darkness, I shed a few tears.
“He was brilliantly portrayed in the film, what came through was the dignity.”
His daughter Anna said: “I think it’s very fitting that we were all here paying tribute to him at the moment of his passing.”
It was not clear what had happened to Mandela’s daughter, Zindzi, but she did not leave with the rest of the audience.