By Stanley Karombo
Millions of South Africans on Saturday took part in charity initiatives across the country to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.
Mandela Day, commemorated each year across the world, “will remain crucial for South Africa and humanity”, said Yase Godlo, head of Mandela Day for the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Various South African organizations, and individuals donated books to libraries and schools. Poor families, the elderly and orphans were treated to decent meals; other people planted vegetable gardens as a way to promote food security.
July 18 is the Nelson Mandela Day, celebrated across the globe in honor of late South African president Nelson Mandela’s birthday. The Mandela Day was formally recognized by the UN General Assembly in 2009.
On this day, millions of people in South Africa and across the world spend 67 minutes of their time cleaning up the environment and doing community work for the good of others.
The 67 minutes symbolize the 67 years that Mandela spent fighting for social justice to make the world a better place.
This year’s Mandela Day was the second since the anti-apartheid icon died of a recurring lung infection on December 5, 2013.
“People have realized the significance of Mandela’s legacy, especially after Madiba (Mandela) passed away. Young and old, they have been coming out over the years to do good for others, and upon realizing the difference they made, they go back and do it again,” said Godlo.
“Of course sometimes some people do it once off, but the spirit of goodwill for others, who are less fortunate, will remain crucial for South Africans,” he added.
The response and partnerships with the foundation have been overwhelming.
“Individuals and organizations have been registering on our website, indicating what they would be doing on Mandela Day. The last count of various activities logged, which was last week, was at 300. We have not been able to check the latest number yet,” Godlo said.
South African embassies abroad coordinated activities in their respective countries.
This year’s theme of the Mandela Day was: food security, education and literacy, shelter and infrastructure and service and volunteering.
“Taking a spade and tend a neighbour’s garden or giving a destitute family down the road a meal counts,” Godlo said.
Graca Machel, widow of Mandela, joined volunteers in packing food parcels at a convention center in Johannesburg, as part of Stop Hunger campaign.
Machel thanked South Africans for giving 67 minutes of their time for a good cause.
“They are not only giving of their time. The most important thing is to see the face of South Africans we are reaching out. We want to thank you for your time,” she said.
Mandela was “an example of humanity for all ages,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in a statement while receiving treatment in a Cape Town hospital for a persistent infection.
“For 67 years, Nelson Mandela placed the welfare of others above his own. He worked as a servant of his people and all South Africans. He was a servant leader. He endured terrible hardship and pain, sacrificing family life, professional career and freedom, ” said Tutu.
Mandela’s grandson, film producer Kweku Mandela, challenged youth to know their status by testing for HIV/AIDS to mark the event.
Like his grandfather, Kweku is committed to ending the spread of HIV/Aids.
More than 80,000 university students were tested at the Johannesburg University.
The occasion was graced by U.S. pop star Zendaya Coleman and Norwegian duo Nico and Vinz.
“Nobody else better than Tata (father) Mandela will be happy to find that his young people are safe, his young people are living, his young people are giving back the economy which he had always dreamed of, and it’s our service on Mandela Day to look after young people,” said Dr. Ramneek Aluhwalia, national director of the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme. Enditem