OPINION: Mandela Day is more than 67 minutes and selfies

Seven months since the death of iconic former president, Nelson Rolihahla Mandela, South Africans gear up to spend 67 minutes of their day giving back to their country.

Nelson Mandela International Day was launched in recognition of the late statesman’s birthday, July 18, in 2009, by the UN (United Nations) General Assembly. It was in response to a call Madiba made a year earlier, when he asked the youth to “take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices”, according to the official Mandela Day website. “It is in your hands now,” he said.

South Africans have come to see Mandela Day as a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy. The name attached to the day helps to promote the idea of serving society and doing charity work, which, for many of the more privileged is not an everyday reality. But it has also been condensed to a mere 67 minutes, as if all one needs to do is fulfil a quota to be a good person.

Mandela Day is about giving at least 67 minutes of your time to give back. Photo: Provided

Mandela Day is about giving at least 67 minutes of your time to give back. Photo: Shutterstock

The official website and social media have helped to market it well. Filled with inspiring images, videos and the hashtag “#time2serve”, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are filled with selfies of people doing charity work, essentially showing off how much good they are doing for the world, as they play with sick children, hand out sandwiches on the side of the road and donate 67 of whatever it is their company produces.

White-washing of Mandela’s legacy

This shows the “depoliticisation and white-washing of Mandela’s legacy” (to quote a status seen on Facebook early this morning), as a day that is meant to honour the memory of a great man has become a corporate event. A chance for people to tick off their annual charity work off a list and carry on about their day, their lives, their normally selfish lives.  As if everyday should not be a Mandela day.

The positive effects of the day are clear: each one us has the potential and responsibility to do something good, for someone in need and if this is what takes for that to happen, then so be it. At least some of the individuals standing on street corners will get a meal today, terminally-ill children will have someone pay them more attention than usual, communities will receive the tools and utensils needed to create a self-sustaining vegetable garden and old age homes will be filled with smiling, happy children, looking to make a difference. This is all good and well, but then tomorrow will come and everything will go back to the way it was.

The poor will be no less poor

The poor will be no less poor than they were before, the terminally ill will not be better, the unemployment rate will have remained the same (or even increased), nothing more will have been done to try and fix the standard of education and schools around the country and South Africa will still be known as one of the most unequal countries in the world.

It feels good to make a difference or change someone’s life, even if it only for a short amount of time, but it should not stop there.

Mandela Day is a good thing, it is encouraging and inspiring for all those who participate (whether they are giving or receiving) and the message is that giving back your time, money or resources should continue for the rest of today and every single day after that.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead,” Madiba once said. So make every day a day about giving back, a day that truly represents his great legacy.

Gone but never forgotten, farewell Madiba


A message pinned to the fence at the Durban City Hall where mourners gathered to watch the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

The final scene in the story of a giant’s life took place today in Qunu, Eastern Cape. Ten days of mourning came to a climatic end, as Nelson Mandela was laid to rest in the place of his birth.

Mandela’s casket was transported on the back of a military truck, after days of back and forth movement when lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to be viewed by the public and a further journey to Qunu for the funeral.

Ninety five candles representing each year of Mandela’s life were lit on the stage, “to remember the years he was on earth and more especially the contribution that he made to our country,” said Cyril Ramaphosa, the programme director and ANC deputy president.

Ahmed Kathrada, close friend to Mandela gave an emotional and heartfelt tribute to his friend as he recalled memories of their long friendship. Kathrada ended his speech by bidding farewell to his “elder brother” without whom he did not know which way to turn. Kathrada said Mandela has now left to join the “A-team” of the ANC, including Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and many others.


Friends and family bade an emotional farewell to the first democratic president of South Africa Nelson Mandela. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

“He is no more in terms of this life but he is still our leader”

Malawi’s first woman president, Joyce Banda paid tribute to Mandela by saying he paved the way for people like herself to be where they are today. Banda spoke about practicing the lessons taught by Mandela instead of just speaking about them.

“Leadership is about falling in love with the people that you serve and the people falling in love with you. It’s about serving the people with selflessness, with sacrifice and with the need to put common good ahead of personal interest,” said Banda.

Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete reminded those in attendance and those watching across the world of the lengths and depths countries across the continent took to protect exiled leaders and assist in fighting the oppressive apartheid regime. Kikwete also highlighted that the South Africa’s grief was shared by Tanzania and the rest of the country.

One of the highlights at the service came when former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda took to the podium to speak, or rather ran to the podium to speak. He spoke candidly and honestly about the oppressive masterminds of the apartheid regime in South Africa. He urged South Africans to remain united by way of honouring Mandela’s legacy. “He is no more in terms of this life, but he is still our leader… Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” ended Kuanda.


Mourners at the Durban City Hall watched the live feed of the funeral on a big screen. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

About 4 500 guests were in attendance at the funeral service which played out over two hours starting at eight in the morning. Cyril Ramaphosa read a list including heads of state, former heads of state, traditional leaders, ANC leadership and others to indicate who was allowed to proceed to the burial, only 450 or so guests were allowed to proceed to the gravesite after the service. Those who stayed behind watched on big screens under the marquee where the service took place.

The hope was for Mandela to be laid to rest at exactly 12 noon, when the sun was at its highest and its shadow at its shortest, honouring a traditional belief that people of great stature must be laid to rest at this time. Unfortunately that did not materialise, with the casket only lowered into the ground closer to 1pm. This last moment was a private one for the Mandela family, that was not shown on television. Robala ka khutso Tata.


Habib: Mandela personified Wits at its best


Professor Adam Habib is pictured with Advocate George Bizos and Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke. Photo: Wits Communications.

Wits vice chancellor (VC), Professor Adam Habib, said late statesman Nelson Mandela’s experiences at Wits University were similar to those of many black students at the university today.

Habib was speaking to Wits Vuvuzela in an interview before the university held its memorial in honour of Nelson Mandela on Thursday.

“Like many blacks in a white institution, he was alienated and excluded.”

Habib said Mandela’s stay at Wits also “opened his mind”.

George Bizos, Ruth First and Joe Slovo are some friends and comrades in the liberation struggle Mandela met as a Witsie. Habib said Madiba explored his political ideas about freedom and equality while at the institution.

Habib also noted that it was the Wits SRC (student representative council) that initiated the “Free Mandela Campaign” in 1974.

Radio Days starts by paying tribute to Nelson Mandela and emphasising the power of his voice. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

An image of Nelson Mandela is shown at the annual Radio Days conference at Wits University this year. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

The group were arrested in 1975 and Advocate George Bizos became defended them in court. Habib said the Wits VC George Bozzoli at the time “very supportive” of the SRC.

[pullquote align=”right”]’He believed in economic inclusion, democracy, civil liberties and political participation”[/pullquote]

Mandela enrolled at Wits in 1943 and was the only Black student in the Faculty of Law but failed to complete his degree. He left in 1948 but was conferred an honorary doctorate in law in 1991. He said of his time at Wits: “At Wits I met many people who were to share with me the ups and downs of the liberation struggle, and without whom I could have accomplished very little.”

Madiba continued to have a “powerful” relationship with Wits – not always agreeing with the institution, Habib said.

While he had never known the former president personally, Habib had met him a few times in groups of people.

Cherry-picking memories of Mandela

As an activist himself, Habib was always careful not to “iconise” individuals as struggle heroes instead of recognising liberation to have been the result of a collective effort. “Madiba made it hard,” Habib said, noting his unique presence which earned the name “Madiba Magic”.

While there was an undeniable charm about the statesman, Habib warned against “cherry picking what we choose to remember” about Mandela: “He believed in economic inclusion, democracy, civil liberties and political participation”.

He said some of these ideals, such as economic inclusion, had not been achieved and that the ruling party would do well to recognise this.

As part of remembering Mandela, Habib attended the official memorial service at FNB stadium this week on behalf of Wits University.

“Some things about the day were positive and some parts made me angry,” he said.

He commended the “sophisticated” running of the day and the “strategic” choice of speakers:  “It sent the message that we determine our own events.”

Having America and Cuba not only speak at the event but be forced to interact said “We recognise you as a global power [to America] but these are our allies [Cuba, China, Brazil and India]. Having Namibia speak said ‘we prioritise the revolution of the African continent’ as well.”

The aspects of the day that upset the VC were the speaker system and screens not working. “We got it right for the World Cup, why not now? I want the small things to work.”

On members of the audience booing President Jacob Zuma, Habib said it was a clear indication that people are angry and that “things aren’t hunky-dory”.

He also said people would be mistaken to assume that was a sign of what’s to come in the elections next year: “It wasn’t representative of South Africa as a whole. KZN wasn’t there, the Eastern Cape wasn’t there, Mpumalanga wasn’t there. Don’t assume this sends a message. I did think it was the wrong moment for that as well. That was Madiba’s day.”

His was a life magnificently lived

Habib has made honouring Madiba an important part of Wits’ future: “We need to work towards ensuring that no student must go through what he went through while here.” Later in the day, Habib announced that Wits would erect a wall of remembrance as a tribute to Mandela.

“His was a life magnificently lived, a tragic life in many ways as well. If each of us could have half his passion for what we believe in, the world would be a better place.”

Habib hoped current and future Witsies would take this lesson from Madiba with them through their careers. “Excel academically and become a great professional but always remember those outside, on the margins. Think about the impact your actions have on them.

“In its paradoxical way, he personified Wits at its best.”


OPINION: First hello, final goodbye

Shandukani Mulaudzi writes of the day she finally saw Nelson Mandela – as his body lay in state in Pretoria, South Africa. 

ShanduAs a child I had always wanted to meet Nelson Mandela. I heard about him shaking children’s hands and smiling at them. Some of my classmates had been fortunate enough to meet him and I too longed for the moment where his hand would meet mine and I would be able to brag that I had met a real life hero.

In 1997 we moved to Arcadia and the Union Buildings were right up the road. I assumed Mandela lived there and imagined that one day I would see him driving out and he would at least wave at me. It didn’t happen, he left the presidency and I grew up. I became “too cool for school” and became satisfied with admiring his greatness from afar.

[pullquote align=”right”]”It’s over. Mandela is really gone”[/pullquote]

I finally saw him today and not in the way that I had once hoped for. His smile was wiped off his face and he couldn’t hold my hand nor could I hold his. The colour had been drained off his face and he looked more grey than brown. His face looked like clay. I was sad and what hurt the most was that I couldn’t even see his face fully because I am a little bit too short. I saw enough though. He looked peaceful and that comforted me.

As I walked away from the casket I saw officials on the other side holding out tissues for those who were crying. I did not cry – well at least not immediately.

[pullquote align=”left”]”You left us in the dark. We are powerless.” [/pullquote]

I went down the stairs from the amphitheatre in search of someone who would tell me how they felt about seeing his body lying there. I wanted to know how it felt for them to know that he had breathed his last breath and would no longer be able to share the wisdom and teachings he was known for.

As I walked I overheard a man say: “Ja ne! Go fedile. O tsamaile ka nnete Mandela” (It’s over. Mandela is really gone).

That was when the finality of it all dawned on me. I watched other journalists scramble to speak to people and ask them questions. I had never seen a corpse before this and I needed a moment. Just as I was about to go find a corner where I could bury my face in my dress a man approached me asking for something.


Joseph Tekela travelled from Qwa-Qwa to bid Mandela a final farewell. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi.

He was holding his crutch in one hand and an envelope in the other. His ANC shirt sparked my interest and I decided to ask him how he was feeling. He told me that for the first time in his life he saw a corpse and cried.

He told me his name is Joseph Tekela and he is the chairman of the Disability Forum in Qwa-Qwa. He and his colleagues travelled to Johannesburg on September 4 this year to pray for Mandela and wish him well. They had hoped he would get better because they still needed him.

Tekela read his card to me. Some of the words were:

“We thought he would fight for us for the implementation of a two-percent of disability employment. We thought he would fight for us for being included for RDP beneficiary for disability in Qwa-Qwa. Your death crushes our hopes of getting what we deserve. You left us in the dark. We are powerless.”

I left the Union Buildings after speaking to Tekela.  His story broke my heart and it was then that I thanked the Lord for my sunglasses which hid the tears that were now welling up in my eyes.

I overcame my fear of seeing a dead body to pay my final respects to a man who gave his life to a cause he so strongly believed in. Tata Rolihlahla Mandela was a beacon of hope for all and even though he had not been involved in politics for years many still saw him as the man who would save them from the injustices they still face in our country.

Today I saw him for the first time and I said goodbye to him too.  The moment was brief and perhaps a little traumatic but it was well worth it.

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela.


Down Vilakazi street with the sons and daughters of Mandela


In living colour: A portrait of late president Nelson Mandela on a side-walk inVilakazi street, Soweto, Johannesburg.                                                                                                  Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Nelson Mandela’s former home on the famous Vilakazi street in Orlando West, Soweto, was a powerful  magnet today, attracting hundreds of people hoping to celebrate the life of the former president and pay their respects to the late icon.

Although entry into the pristine red-brick house, now a museum, was temporarily barred, many people milled around its gates taking pictures, signing messages on a large portrait of Mandela hanging from the fence. Visitors also laid flowers and lit candles at a steadily growing memorial under a sign reading “Goodbye Tata.”

ANC Mkonto weSizwe Miltary Veteran’s Association (ANCMKMVA) member Oupa Mabe, who first met Mandela on Robben Island in 1987, described the atmosphere as “ambivalent” while struggle songs rose up from the streets outside Mandela’s former home.

“People are having mixed feelings about this … Others are sad and others want to celebrate. If you say we should be sad then you are trying to undermine the contribution of a legend, what he has left for us a unifier and as a great leader.”

Mabe, dutifully signing coordinating the signings of the large portrait-print of Mandela and handing out markers to children eager to pen goodbye messages to the late president, recalled that the first thing Mandela said to him on the first day of his 28-year sentence: “Young man go and learn. Go and educate yourself so that one day you can lead.”

Former press secretary for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Rose Nkosi, echoed Mabe’s sentiments as she haggled with a vendor over the price for a book of portraits of Nelson Mandela.

“I am disturbed as our father has passed away.” Nkosi said despite this sadness that we were feeling, Mandela’s passing was an opportunity to renew faith in the principles, especially education, which he lived for.

Rubbing a hand over Mandela’s face on the cover of her newly purchased book, Nkosi said the written word and pictures provided a powerful tool for teaching future generations about the man and his “dedication to education”.

Letlogonolo Mogapi, a Unisa student from Pretoria, dedicated her pursuit of an engineering degree to Nelson Mandela.

“If it was not for Mandela we would not even be in school right now… [pullquote]Ga ne re gola, if you were black, it was either you studied nursing or you were a teacher.[/pullquote] You would never find an engineer back then. He was not struggling for freedom [alone] he fought for education and we thank him for that.”


Teach One: Letlhogonolo Mogapi and Thutelo Refilwe came from Pretoria to say goodbye to Mandela.                                                                                                                                                                    Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Even as the rain clouds gathered and threatened to unleash another violent Highveld storm, the singing and dancing in celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela continued on Vilakazi street.

OBITUARY: Nelson Mandela

Mandela banner2Nelson Mandela has died.

South Africa’s first democratic president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate passed away last night at 20:50 at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg at the age of 95.

Madiba, or Tata as he is affectionately known by many South Africans, had been treated for a recurring lung infection since June.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 at Mvezo, a small village in the former Transkei.


He attended the Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape and then ran away to Johannesburg in 1941 to escape an arranged marriage. While in Johannesburg Mandela obtained his BA degree through correspondence university and then enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand for a Law degree. Mandela was the only African student in the Law faculty at the time. In 1944 he, along with notable figures and activists such as Oliver Tambo, William Nkomo and Peter Mda formed the ANC Youth League.

He, along with his life-long friend Oliver Tambo opened the first black law firm in South Africa, called Mandela and Tambo in 1952.

During his time as a political activist fighting against the injustices and cruelties of the apartheid system, Mandela was banned, arrested several times and sentenced to imprisonment for acts such as treason, leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike. [pullquote align=”right”] “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity”[/pullquote]

Rivonia Trial

Mandela was tried for sabotage in 1963 in the trial that became known as the Rivonia Trial. In his mitigation speech in 1962 Mandela said on the liberation, “If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man”.

In 1964 he was sentenced to life, along with Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and others were  sent to Robben Island Prison. Mandela served 27 years in prison, serving most of the time on Robben Island, before he was released on 11 February 1990.

Road to Democracy 

In 1991 he was elected as the new ANC president and voted for the first time in his life on 27 April 1994. Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black and democratically elected president on 10 May 1994. He only served one term as president but continued with his humanitarian activities and his vision of South Africa’s rainbow nation.

“Madiba”, as he is/was known by his clan name, had received almost 700 awards, including honorary awards. Many institutions, street names and foundations have been named after the peace icon.

Honouring an icon

Mandela’s funeral is expected to be attended by state leaders and other global icons. Before the burial his coffin will lie at the Union Buildings in Pretoria for the next ten days where the public can pay their respects and say their final goodbyes to their “Tata”, the father of many nations. Thereafter he will be laid to rest in Qunu, his home town in the Eastern Cape.

Mandela is survived by his wife Graca Machel,  his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, six children, 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Mandela himself regarded death as an inevitability and said in 1994 that “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity”.

But his thoughts on life at the 90th celebration of Walter Sisulu in 2002 were: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”.

Opinions: Mandela’s virtues are our virtues

This Mandela Day will certainly be regarded as the most significant so far – but why do we need a Mandela Day at all?

On July 18, 2009, Mandela’s birthday, Mandela Day was declared an international day for peace and to celebrate his legacy. People pledge to give 67 minutes of their day to do good, a minute for each year Mandela gave to fight against the oppressive apartheid regime.

On the website, the reason for Mandela Day is given as: “To inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good.”

But it is this concept of doing 67 minutes of good that interests me most. Why do we need a specific day, time or place to do something good?

In doing 67 minutes of good on Mandela Day, people are joining together in an initiative they feel is worth being part of – clearly, or no-one would bother.  A whole year has passed since the last, but people sit and wait for someone to tell them that this is the day they should start feeling charitable.

This is an example of how humans cross the species border and become sheep. It all stems from our need to be guided, to follow, in an attempt to be normal.

In Tribes, Seth Godin writes about humanity’s need to belong. He says all people want to be part of a tribe, a connection of people who are like-minded and share common beliefs. No matter how big or small, people need to be connected to a leader or an idea.

People look to leaders who have similar perspectives to their own. Everything that has been accomplished over time, including overcoming apartheid, was achieved by the actions of leaders. These leaders are people who take the initiative to vocalise their beliefs and make a change in one way or another.

We follow them because we see ourselves within these leaders. We share their innate morals and cultural outlook. A leader holds a mirror to our subconscious and helps us put into motion what we already knew we wanted to achieve.

Why is it, though, that all credit goes to that particular leader? Why do we attribute all the accomplishments achieved on behalf of our country to one man? Is it up to Mandela to hold us together? Or can we learn from him in the attempt to continue his leadership tasks, working consistently together to keep South Africa on the right path?

With all the greatness the country has achieved, South Africans should look to themselves and their own leadership qualities. If we didn’t share Mandela’s need for change, his forgiveness, his drive and heart, he would never have been able to achieve what he did.

It is now time to take our own virtues into consideration. We need to recognise our inner power and learn to do something with it.

The truth is, South Africa got where it is because we all have the ability to do good. We followed Mandela because we have his qualities and he shares ours.

With Mandela Day approaching, people are suddenly browsing the web for some charity or event to participate in for 67 minutes, do some good and just to be involved. But surely all this does is make us feel complacent; that we’ve done our bit for the year.

Is it not time that we as humans see ourselves as captains of our own ships, makers of our own destinies? The beauty of life is that we are all given choices, and it is up to us to be active in the choices we make.

Give yourself some credit as a South African, and realise that you don’t need a “Day” or a leader to show you the way or to make a change. We all have the ability to be the leaders that the rest of the world needs.

Instead of sitting around and waiting for Mandela Day, do what Seth Godin tells us: “Shine a light, build a tribe and make a difference” today.



[STORIFY]: Mandla airs the dirty laundry

If this Storify does not load automatically, please click here.

Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela spoke in great detail at a media briefing yesterday, following the outcome of the feuding family’s court case over family graves.

He said that he would no longer address the media and he wanted to focus on eradicating poverty in Mvezo.

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