One of the last details to be arranged in Nelson Mandela's hastily orchestrated tour of the United States was lining up the aircraft that would take him to the eight cities on his itinerary.
After feverish and failed negotiations with everyone from the U.S. government to private charter operators, the unlikely benefactor has turned out to be none other than Donald Trump.
Mandela and the approximately 80 people traveling with him arrived here Sunday in a Trump Shuttle 727 and will take the same plane on the rest of the tour, which ends in Los Angeles and Oakland late this week. The Trump shuttle also carried Mandela from New York to Boston on Saturday.
Christine Dolan, who handled logistics for the trip, said that organizers, desperate to find a plane in time for Mandela's arrival in the United States last Wednesday, contacted Trump seeking to rent his private jet. He responded that it was being serviced and unavailable but offered to release a 727 from his shuttle fleet, Dolan said.
But Trump's generosity only goes so far: Organizers are paying $130,000 to charter the plane, Dolan said.
Trump and Mandela might seem an odd pairing. Mandela's African National Congress is aligned with the Communist Party in South Africa, and he has said he would consider nationalization of some industries as a way to redistribute the wealth in a post-apartheid South Africa.
But no one at the Mandela Welcoming Committee is questioning it.
"The Mandela Welcoming Committee is very thankful to Donald Trump," Dolan said.