‘I’ll call you’ – Nelson Mandela


2 June 2004

Nelson Mandela may have retired as president of South Africa more than five years ago, but the world’s most famous octogenarian has maintained a work rate that few men half his age could have kept up with, campaigning globally for peace, children and the fight against HIV/Aids in particular.

Now, finally, Mandela has officially retired from public life – or retired from retirement, as he told invited guests and journalists at his Johannesburg home on Tuesday.

His parting gift – a R1-billion endowment to South Africa, to be raised over the next five years by the three charitable organisations that bear his name: the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Nelson Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

Mandela, who turns 86 on 18 July, said the rest would give him the chance to spend time with family and friends, to read more and to reflect on life.

Quiet reflection

“One of the things that made me long to be back in prison was that I had so little opportunity for reading, thinking and quiet reflection after my release”, Mandela said. “And of course, there are those memoirs about the presidential years that now really need my urgent attention.

“I am turning 86 in a few weeks’ time, and that’s a longer life than most people are granted,” Mandela said. “I have had blessings of being in very good health, at least according to my doctors.

“I am confident that nobody present here today will accuse me of selfishness if I ask to spend time, while I am still in good health, with my family, my friends – and also with myself.”

Madiba said that while he did not intend to hide away totally from the public, he wanted to be in a position “of calling you to ask whether I would be welcome, rather than being called upon to do things and participate in events.

“My appeal therefore is: Don’t call me, I will call you,” he said.

That did not mean “our generous business community” should feel disappointed, Mandela joked. “I shall not totally forget you. When I notice a worthy cause that needs your support, I shall certainly call you.”


John Samuel, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, told The Star that the three Mandela legacy organisations aimed to raise the R1-billion endowment – to be used to uplift the lives of South Africans – over the next five years.

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund has already raised an endowment of R250-million, Samuel said. The Nelson Mandela Foundation had set itself the target of raising R500- million, while the Nelson Mandela Rhodes Foundation was also targeting R250-million.

“The leadership of what we call the three Mandela legacy organisations are present here today as proof and assurance that our work will continue,” Mandela said, “perhaps in an even more focused way now that the attention shifts from the individual to the organisations.”

Mandela said he was satisfied that the three “independent but interlinked legacy organisations . are in full alignment with one another, each charged to giving expression to a specific aspect of human development.

“I hope that you all will be as excited as I am about what will be achieved by these three highly functional and well-organised bodies working in our name. I hope you will also get a clear picture of how much care and thought have gone into aligning these structures and preparing them for playing a major role in South Africa and Africa for many years to come.”

Mandela said he would spend his retirement at his homes in Mozambique, his birthplace Qunu in the Eastern Cape, Johannesburg and Limpopo – where, according to his personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, he will soon be going to continue work on his book.

“We trust that people will understand our considerations and will grant us the opportunity for a much quieter life,” Mandela said.

“Thank for being kind to an old man – allowing him to take a rest, even if many of you may feel that after loafing somewhere on an island and other places for 27 years, the rest is not really deserved.”

Update, June 2013: The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is now responsible for carrying out the core work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The centre focuses on three areas – the life of Nelson Mandela, dialogue for social justice, and Nelson Mandela International Day. The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation are still sister organisations.

Other institutions that have a stake in Mandela’s legacy include the 46664 Campaign, the Nelson Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, the Nelson Mandela Museum and the Robben Island Museum.


SAinfo reporter

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