Mandela Day aiming for 160 countries


The buy-in for Nelson Mandela International Day keeps growing, and this year the seven-year-old campaign aims to be marked in even more countries.

Nelson-Mandela-Day-launch This year’s Nelson Mandela International Day may be the biggest yet, with organisers aiming to get 160 countries involved in various acts of goodwill. Mandela’s former private secretary Zelda la Grange, above, will be joining 42 bikers on a ride across the Eastern Cape and Western Cape to raise awareness on rape and domestic violence. (Image: Shamin Chibba)

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Shamin Chibba

In 2009, Nelson Mandela International Day took place in just two cities: Johannesburg and New York. This year, if the Nelson Mandela Foundation gets its wish, it will be observed in 160 countries.

Mandela Day was officially launched at the foundation’s offices in Johannesburg on Monday, 6 July in front of media and charity organisers. The latter pledged their time and effort for the coming event, which in South Africa has been expanded into Mandela Month over the whole of July.

Brand South Africa used the launch to announce the Play your Part for Madiba campaign. Brand South Africa board member Geoffrey Rothschild said the campaign aimed to build pride, patriotism and a spirit of active citizenship.

“We want to galvanise citizens into embodying the values and spirit of Madiba. We’ve all heard it before that his three principles throughout his life [were]: free yourself, free others, and serve every day.”

Although Mandela Day was on a Saturday this year, said LeadSA founder Yusuf Abramjee, people should still be charitable. “I know some people are saying Mandela Day falls on Saturday and it’s the day after companies are closed, the schools are on holiday. That should be no excuse. We must make sure that we do our bit. No activity is too big or too small.”

Nelson-Mandela-Day-launch-02 The Grammy Award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir were on hand to launch Nelson Mandela International Day. (Image: Shamin Chibba)

Mandela Day uniting people

Since the first Mandela Day seven years ago, the campaign has proved that strangers can come together for a good cause regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The founder of 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, Caroline Steyn, said she witnessed this unity when hundreds of people gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to knit the largest blanket in the world in April this year.

“It was quite incredible the way people came together on 21 April at the Union Buildings. That was the week when xenophobic violence was at its height and people from Ghana, Zambia and DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] came together to create the biggest blanket in the world. And it was just so warm and fuzzy how strangers were connecting.”

This year, Stop Hunger Now will host the million meal challenge in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban on 17 July. Having packed 800 000 meals last year, the organisation aims to pack up to 1.5 million this year. Its chief executive, Saira Khan, said it would be a world first if they achieved it.

“What that will do is feed 600 kids for an entire year every day. Hunger has the impact of stripping your dignity. It is the only condition where you will do whatever it takes, even if it means going the wrong way. It’s almost like a genocide of the mind.”

Bikers ride for Mandela

Mandela’s former private secretary, Zelda la Grange, will join 42 other motorcyclists on the sixth annual Bikers for Mandela Day. They will ride through Eastern Cape and Western Cape educating communities on acting against abuse, particularly the abuse of women and children.

“Someone said the other day that if you created a special occasion to remember someone, that person who was deceased would become a member again,” said La Grange. “So we will try and remember Mandela on this journey like we do every year.”

On 16 July, the group, which includes construction workers, a doctor, artists, radio and television personalities, businesspeople, academics, a former rugby player and La Grange herself, will set off for Beaufort West on the first leg of the trip.

They would visit organisations that work with raped, abused and vulnerable women. At each project they would hand out whistles to women and girls under the Blow the Whistle initiative, and would encourage them to keep the whistle and blow it whenever they felt they were in danger, said La Grange.