67 minutes for Nelson Mandela Day



NELSON MANDELA DAY: 67 minutes of outreach in honour of the 67 years Mr Mandela spent fighting for social justice and human rights . Photo: Stock Image

Nelson Mandela International Day, also known as Mandela Day, is a global event that occurs on July 18 each year in celebration of the late South African president Nelson Mandela’s birthday and his achievements (more…)

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.

Seven percent of undergrads at Wits attending lectures without food

The Wits Food Bank is appealing to Witsies to assist students in need through donations. Photo: Wits Communications.

The Wits Food Bank is appealing to Witsies to assist students in need through donations. Photo: Wits Communications.

Seven percent of undergraduate students go to lectures without food each day, according to Wits Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube.

This figure is based on a study conducted in 2012 by Wits medical school students and on research by the Wits Student Affairs Office and campus security after students were found to be sleeping in university buildings.

The study, conducted by the Siyakhana Initiative for Ecological Health and Food Security, based its research on 387 undergraduate students and looked at 22 campus food points. Its aim was to “assess the food environment on campus, establish the food security status of undergraduate students and investigate the relationship between these two issues.”

“Usually, students who don’t have accommodation and sleep on campus also don’t have something to eat,” said Dube.

According to Dube, the numbers that they got were not as high as initially anticipated, but this was just “one intervention.”

“Some people will take away their blankets where they’re sleeping in the bathroom … or in the seminar rooms … or sometimes only blankets will be found and the person will never be tracked. People tend to also be watchful,” she said.

Seven percent of the students were either “severely or moderately vulnerable to food insecurity”

Seven percent of the students were either “severely or moderately vulnerable to food insecurity” and in some groups, a number of students experienced hunger.

27% of them knew of a fellow student who experienced hunger and more than half had personally experienced some impact on their academic performance, due to hunger.

Initiatives to assist hungry Wits students

The Wits Food Bank, started just over a year ago, is a campaign of the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach centre (WCCO) and is aimed at curbing food insecurity among students.

It provides students in need with toiletries, clothes, food and if need be, a place to sleep, according to WCCO manager, Karuna Singh.

This year, the WCCO is using Mandela Day (18 July) as a way to encourage larger donations from the Wits community, with the theme: “charity begins at home.”

“We are asking staff members and students to donate food, toiletries and clothes to the Food Bank,” said Singh.

The division of Students Affairs, a partner in the Food Bank project, also works closely with a number of departments, schools and faculties to support students in need. “People do actually come, as much as they fear the stigma,” Dube said. “Our interest is that people perform well and are supported, which means providing them with balanced, nutritious meals.”

As part of a solution, there have been changes in meals catered for at residences, “as this is not just an issue for students in need.”

Students can receive food cards for the Matrix and the university has plans to create a day house where meals can be provided and healthy, mobile food stands around campus.

The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) is also assisting hungry students as it recognises the impact on student performance.

The SRC are continously helping students with food security issues

“[We are] committed to ensuring that all our students are given the best possible environment to perform academically. For some students their poor performance is due to a lack of food and the SRC has interventions available to assist these students,” said SRC president, Shafee Verachia.

According to Verachia, the problem is so prevalent because of the sacrifice students make to come to Wits.

“Some are faced with horrendous circumstances which they try and deal with to make a success of life.” He also feels there is a lack of understanding by some students, who think everything will be provided for them when they get to university. “Nonetheless, the SRC is committed to assisting all of our students.”

The SRC has two ongoing processes available to students. The first is catering for students who have not had a meal in two or more days. The SRC uploads money onto their student card so that they can go to res and get a meal, just like any other student. The second is through the provision of food packs for students who can prepare meals for themselves.

Support students in need this Mandela Day

Food_bankFor Mandela Day this year, Wits has adopted the theme “Charity begins at home”, with the aim of assisting the growing number of students who face challenges of hunger and poverty. 

Food insecurity has became a significant issue for many students on campus, according to student liason support officer at the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO) centre, Karuna Singth. 

Collection bins have been placed around campus, allowing staff and students to deposit non-perishable food and toiletries as part of the Mandela Day collection. 

Collection points

Donations can be dropped off at the following points on Wednesday, July 18:

 East Campus – Library Lawns between 1pm and 2pm

West Campus – CCDU office – during working hours

Wits Business School – Chantel Evans-Smit’s office – during working hours

School of Education – Julie Donnelly’s office /Staff lounge – during working hours

Faculty of Health Sciences –1ST Floor Lobby, Phillip Tobias building – during working hours

Wits School of Public Health – Education Campus in the Courtyard – during working hours

For enquiries, contact Karuna Singth on Karuna.Singh@wits.ac.za

[Updated with Video] Witsies celebrate Mandela day

CELEBRATIONS broke out yesterday when students and workers of the university gathered on the Great Hall steps to commemorate Mandela’s 95th birthday.

Close to 1000 people of the university circled around the Bambanani Brass Band from Alexander, who played for the choir of people that sang happy birthday to our “Tata”, as South Africans lovingly call him.

The band consisted of ten members which entertained the crowd by playing trumpets and drums. The band also danced a choreographed pantsula piece to add to their performance. The Brass Band also sang a hymn and got the crowd involved through clapping their hands.

The Wits choir also made an appearance where they took centre stage a sang happy birthday to Madiba with the crowd. It was a nostalgic moment for some as seen on people’s faces when they wished the father of our nation, by closing their eyes.

Cleaners were in abundance and students could be seen among them singing and clapping their hands in joy as the band played vibrant sounds through their brass instruments.

Witsies celebrated this special day which is International Mandela day by joining in and participating in acknowledging the legacy that is Madiba.

People also seemed to be extra for filled by the celebrations that Mandela is still alive today, despite many days of anxiety around his health, people indulged celebrating his life as well.



The youth get keen on doing it for Madiba

THE YEAR 2013 is proving to be the year of the youth.

Philanthropy and politics are making their way to the top of young people’s priority lists. And Mandela Day is a perfect way of engaging in both.

A recent survey by consumer research company, Pondering Panda, showed that nine out ten youngsters had plans of taking part in the Mandela Day initiative this year.

The number of youth giving 67 minutes of their time on former president Nelson Mandela’s birthday has increased threefold, with 33% of those surveyed saying they would be participating for the first time.

The Wits community has also done its bit to celebrate Mzansi’s favourite statesman.

Wits Business School (WBS) went to the Nazareth House in Yeoville. The house is home to abandoned HIV positive babies and children.

The Yeoville home also looks after the aged, mentally challenged and terminally ill.

WBS staff members decided to create a fun-filled day of cake and play for the 30 children of Nazareth House.

Face painting, jumping castles and games were the order of the day as the children enjoyed hot dogs, party packs and a large Nelson Mandela birthday cake.

“We decided to do something more personal and fun for the kids,” said WBS events officer Vuyolwethu Mntonintshi.

The WBS team also bought groceries, clothes and nappies for the home.

“We thought we’d also do some painting and gardening, but the place is actually pretty well-maintained,” Mntonintshi said.

She said they still had plans to buy books and toys for Nazareth House but had to wait for the procurement process at Wits to pass.

The spotlight on Nelson Mandela’s health appears to have brought greater attention to the icon and his legacy.

Some prominent young people decided to have an early Mandela Day.

In the second week of July, Lehasa Moloi of ETV’s Sony Mgongo fame took to Alexandra township with a team of celebrities.

The stars gave residents of the Itlhokomeleng Home for the Elderly manicures and haircuts in the sun. They also enjoyed chats over tea and cake in paying respect to Mandela.

Moloi was raised by his grandparents and is no stranger to frail care as he looked after his grandparents when they were ill.

He said he wished the plight of senior citizens could be “in people’s faces all the time” as they tend to be the “forgotten generation”.

While his condition is said to have improved, the former president’s health continues to be a matter of concern to South Africans everywhere.


Slice of Life: 67 Minutes of Nothing

People may think I’m unpatriotic, but I don’t believe in campaigns like the 67 minutes for Mandela, Save the rhino, Shout! against crime and, the one I personally loathed the most, Kony2012.

They make people think that, by liking a facebook page, watching a YouTube video or doing something good once a year, they will make an impact in society.

Saving the rhino would be relevant if the animal were actually going extinct. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the rhino population in South Africa is not threatened. The annual growth of the rhino population is 7%, and only 2% are killed through illegal hunting. So what’s the fuss?

I agree with a recent statement by Cosatu spokesperson Dumisani Dakile after more people died in our mines: “We know if it was the rhinos killed there was going to be lot of noise… ” This just shows how wrongly slanted our attention and activism is.

Then there was the Stop Kony/Kony2012 social media campaign earlier this year.  Jason Russell filmed an emotional documentary about his Ugandan friend in order to unite the world behind a movement to arrest Joseph Kony for crimes against humanity.

What many people didn’t know was that Invisible Children, the organisation behind the Kony2012 video – which solicited donations by selling bracelets and other goodie-bags – was in my opinion a scam. Yes, a scam.

The organisation pays Russell roughly R700 000 a year. And only 30-35% of the money collected is used to build schools or for other “charitable acts”. Where does the other 65-70% of money go? Their financial statements seem to suggest that up to 25% of their money is used for travelling and film-making. Nobody seems bothered to ask about that.

I can continue ranting, but what is the point? These campaigns are backed by big-name celebrities and companies, so the public will stupidly fall in line.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping society, building unity and improving our country, but why are people so slow to start mass social movements against the non-delivery of textbooks in Limpopo, the huge unemployment rate and the shockingly high number of people who can’t read or write.

That is where improvement should start.