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South African composer ‘does not remember’ discussing Mandela with Meghan Markle

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The South African composer who met the Duchess of Sussex at the Lion King premiere in London today insisted he can’t remember speaking to her about Nelson Mandela after the movie’s only South African actor told MailOnline he was ‘baffled’ by her suggestion his country had ‘rejoiced’ when she married Prince Harry.

Lebohang Morake, whose professional name is ‘Lebo M’, said he spoke to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for ‘less than a minute’ at the West End launch of the film for which he composed music in 2019.

Meghan’s bombshell interview in The Cut suggested that she had been told by a South African at The Lion King’s London premiere that a huge fanfare in the country had greeted her wedding to Harry. The article described a cast member at the Leicester Square red-carpet event telling her: ‘I just need you to know: “When you married into this family, we rejoiced in the streets the same we did when Mandela was freed from prison”.’

The only South African cast member Dr John Kani yesterday denied it was he who made the controversial remarks. And Nelson Mandela’s grandson also slammed Meghan saying the release of his freedom-fighting grandfather after 27 years in jail for his beliefs did not ‘equate’ with her marrying a prince.

Today Mr Morake told MailOnline: ‘Indeed I was at The Lion King 2019 premier and met the Royals. I cannot comment on the matter as it was three years ago and I don’t remember details of that conversation which was less than a minute, except the Royals were going to South Africa or Botswana. 

‘I’m the only South African directly associated with both The Lion King films and the Broadway productions.’

Footage of the exchanges between the Sussexes and Mr Morake, Harry can be heard discussing visiting Africa and Malawi. The premiere was in July 2019 and the royals travelled to South Africa and Harry to Malawi later that year in September.

Film of the meeting shows Mr Morake being introduced to the Royals as he stands next to American singer Pharrell Williams. 

Mr Morake is heard saying: ‘It’s an honour to meet you. Everyone in South Africa’s heard of Meghan Markle’. As Harry tells of their forthcoming trip to Southern Africa, Mr Morake says: ‘Oh, fantastic. Better be seeing you then’ before the couple moved on to Pharrell. 

Lebohang Morake, whose professional name is ‘Lebo M’, said he spoke to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for ‘less than a minute’ at the West End launch of the film for which he composed music in 2019

Lebo M can be heard saying: 'Everyone in South Africa has heard of Meghan Markle' when they met at the movie premiere

Lebo M can be heard saying: ‘Everyone in South Africa has heard of Meghan Markle’ when they met at the movie premiere

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Dr John Kani has said that he was the only South African star of the Disney movie, has never met Meghan and was not at the UK premiere so was not the source of the royal's anecdote

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Dr John Kani has said that he was the only South African star of the Disney movie, has never met Meghan and was not at the UK premiere so was not the source of the royal’s anecdote

South African president Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana at Mandela's home in Cape Town, South Africa, on March 17, 1997

South African president Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana at Mandela’s home in Cape Town, South Africa, on March 17, 1997

Mr Morake, 58, who was born in Soweto and is a Grammy winner, told MailOnline he doubted whether the issue over Meghan’s controversial interview were of much significance to his country. He added: ‘As a South African, I’m not sure if this is important to most of us facing serious domestic issues. I’d like to not be dragged into this issue from three years ago either way.’

Extract from Meghan’s interview in The Cut on Mandela and her wedding day

She [Meghan] recalls a moment from the 2019 London premiere of the live-action version of The Lion King. ‘I just had Archie. It was such a cruel chapter. I was scared to go out.’ A cast member from South Africa pulled her aside. ‘He looked at me, and he’s just like light. He said, “I just need you to know: When you married into this family, we rejoiced in the streets the same we did when Mandela was freed from prison.” ‘ 

Of course, she knows she’s no Mandela, but perhaps even telling me this story is a mode of defense, because if you are a symbol for all that is good and charitable, how can anybody find you objectionable, how can anybody hate you? 

Yesterday an acclaimed actor and friend of Nelson Mandela yesterday told MailOnline he is ‘baffled’ by the Duchess of Sussex’s suggestion that his country had ‘rejoiced’ when she married Prince Harry – and revealed he has never met her despite claiming to be the only South African member of the cast in Disney’s recent remake of The Lion King.

Dr John Kani believes the Duchess of Sussex has made ‘a faux pas’ after she used a US magazine interview to imply her 2018 royal wedding sparked celebrations in South Africa reminiscent of the release of his friend Madiba, the legendary anti-apartheid leader.

He said Mr Mandela’s walk to freedom after 27 years was a ‘landmark moment’ while her marriage to Prince Harry was ‘no big deal’ in South Africa, adding that the two events ‘cannot be spoken in the same breath’ and ‘you can’t really say where you were when Meghan married Harry’.

The bombshell interview in The Cut suggested Meghan had been told the opposite by a male South African cast member at the London premiere of the Lion King live action film held in 2019. It reported the Duchess as saying: ‘He looked at me, and he’s just like light. He said, “I just need you to know: When you married into this family, we rejoiced in the streets the same we did when Mandela was freed from prison”.’

But Dr Kani, a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company who voiced the mandrill shaman Rafiki, told MailOnline that he was the only South African in the Disney movie, has never met Meghan and was not at the UK premiere.

He said the only other South African who was involved was Lebo M, a composer who together with Hans Zimmer was responsible for the music for The Lion King. But Lebo M was not in the cast. 

Sitting under a portrait of his friend Mr Mandela at his Johannesburg home, he said: ‘I have never met Meghan Markle. This seems like something of a faux pas by her. I have I have never met the Duchess at all. I am the only South African member of the cast and I did not attend the premiere in London.

‘I went to Hollywood as we opened there and from there I had to go immediately to Paris where I was shooting a film sequel, so I couldn’t hang around. The only South African was me playing Rafiki. But I did not go to the opening in Leicester Square as I didn’t have the time to do that. It just may be a mis-remembering on her side.

‘It is baffling me. I am the only South African in the cast. I play Rafiki, Seth Rogen plays Pumbaa, Donald Glover plays Simba and Beyonce plays Nala.’

The actor insisted that Harry and Meghan’s nuptials were ‘no big deal’ in his country, adding: ‘I cannot even tell you now what month she married or what year’.

Dr Kani said he did not believe that the people of South Africa celebrated Meghan’s marriage to Prince Harry on the scale that greeted the release of anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela as claimed by her.

He said: ‘In my memory, nobody would have known when she got married, when or what. We had no South African link to the wedding or to her marrying Harry.’

He said: ‘I am truly surprised by this. For me it is a non-event, the whole thing’.

MailOnline has approached the Sussexes and Disney about his claims. The Cut declined to comment.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the premiere of The Lion King at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on July 14, 2019

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the premiere of The Lion King at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on July 14, 2019

‘The world stopped in February 11 1990. The entire country and most of the people born in the seventies didn’t know what Mr Mandela looked like.

‘When the gates of Pollsmoor (Prison) opened, the entire South African nation, the entire African continent and the world were glued.

‘We only realised that he (Mr Mandela) was the one walking next to Winnie (his wife of the time) when he raised his hand and we said “Oh, that’s him” because none of us had seen Mr Mandela since 1964’.

‘That was a world event. Surely Miss Meghan or whatever marrying into royalty cannot in any way be spoken in the same breath or even the same sentence as that moment.

‘It lives in our memories forever to the world. It is a kind of “Where were you when JFK was shot…where were you when Nelson Mandela was released”?

‘You can’t really say where you were when Meghan married Harry.

‘I am confused about this. She is an important person in her own life.

‘But there are various opinions all over the world about them severing their ties with the Royal Family and Harry not being able to serve and do his normal duties and their moving to America and the interviews with Oprah Winfrey and all that. We’ve been following that story with interest really, but that is all.

‘But beyond that I don’t know her, never met her and wasn’t in London and I am the only South African actor in The Lion King.’

Mr Kani, who directed programme for Mr Mandela, said he did not believe Meghan’s self-comparison to Mr Mandela was an insult to South Africa.

‘There were so many people that came to South Africa who just wanted to meet with Nelson Mandela.

‘At one stage we were so bored about it, that we wanted to do a Mandela cardboard cut-out so that they could take a picture with the cardboard cut-out.

‘Mr Mandela was an enigma to South Africa and he was an elder. There was that added cultural dimension in meeting with him.

‘You knew you were meeting an elder, more as a father than as a President. We used to to call him “Dada” which means Daddy.

‘I really wouldn’t want to call it an insult. It must be a faux pas. There is something Meghan is mixing up with.’

Hours earlier Nelson Mandela’s grandson delivered a fresh attack on Meghan Markle and urged her to ‘pull up her sleeves’ and do more for ordinary people after she drew a comparison between her royal wedding day and Madiba’s walk from prison after 27 years of incarceration. 

Zwelivelile ‘Mandla’ Mandela told MailOnline he was ‘surprised’ at her remarks in The Cut magazine when she claimed that three years ago a cast member of the Lion King told her that ‘we rejoiced in the streets the same we did when Mandela was freed from prison’.

He declared that ‘every day there are people who want to be Nelson Mandela, either comparing themselves with him or wanting to emulate him’.

He told The Times that his advice to the former actress was: ‘Get out there, pull up your sleeves and better the lives of ordinary people in England and in the United Kingdom’, adding: ‘For the personality she is, she can do a lot of good in the global community by adopting the causes that Madiba championed’.

Zwelivelile 'Mandla' Mandela told MailOnline he was 'surprised' at her remarks in The Cut magazine when she claimed that three years ago a cast member of the Lion King told her that 'we rejoiced in the streets the same we did when Mandela was freed from prison'.

Zwelivelile 'Mandla' Mandela told MailOnline he was 'surprised' at her remarks in The Cut magazine when she claimed that three years ago a cast member of the Lion King told her that 'we rejoiced in the streets the same we did when Mandela was freed from prison'.

Zwelivelile ‘Mandla’ Mandela told MailOnline he was ‘surprised’ at an article in The Cut magazine which claimed that three years ago a cast member of the Lion King told Meghan that ‘we rejoiced in the streets the same we did when Mandela was freed from prison’

Mandla said that people across South Africa had rejoiced at his release in 1990, because his dramatic walk to freedom had signalled a victory over apartheid and colonialism. 

The African National Congress MP said his grandfather’s release was a moment of huge national significance, which should not be compared to the duchess’s 2018 marriage ‘to a white prince’. 

He told MailOnline: ‘It can never be compared to the celebration of someone’s wedding. Madiba’s celebration was based on overcoming 350 years of colonialism with 60 years of a brutal apartheid regime in South Africa. So It cannot be equated to as the same.’

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