South Africa knits thousands of blankets for Madiba

22 April 2015

The gardens of the Union Buildings in Pretoria were covered with thousands of handmade blankets on Tuesday as part of a Guinness World Record attempt by 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day.

The 3 133 square metres of blankets claims to be the largest area covered by a blanket. The previous record was 1 020 square metres.

The blankets – crocheted and knitted by South Africans and other supporters around the world – were collected by 67 Blankets, an initiative set up by Carolyn Steyn to support the 67 minutes for Mandela Day campaign, held in July.

Volunteers worked late into the night on Monday to ensure the blankets were laid out and presented correctly for the judging of this record-breaking event.



Steyn told News24 that 67 Blankets started after Zelda La Grange, Nelson Mandela’s long-time assistant, challenged her to make 67 blankets for Mandela Day in 2014.

“I don’t have 67 friends to help and I can’t do it on my own, so I turned to Facebook and created a group at 03:00 one morning in desperation. The next day I woke up to hundreds of members and now we are thousands and thousands.”

The goal was to collect 21 000 blankets by April 21. “The fact is we can’t really say how many blankets we have, as more and more keep pouring in,” Steyn said.

‘Binding our nation together’

South Africans from all walks of life got involved in the project: school children, people in old age homes, rugby players and prisoners.

“The deeper message is that we are binding our nation together with colourful threads and I think it’s so powerful, especially at this time,” she said, referring to the recent attacks on foreign nationals.

“I think we are putting out a very powerful statement that we are anti-xenophobia in every form, that we are knitting together our society, that we are knitting together our nation, and that we are all Africans.”


67 Blankets at the Union 
 Buildings. Pic by Peter Morey
Thousands of blankets cover the lawns of the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 21 April 2015. (Image: Peter Morey)


‘All hands on deck’

On Tuesday, a group from the Discovery Fun Factory, a pre-school in Sandton with 60 staff members and almost 300 children, went to the Union Buildings to hand in the 16 blankets they had knitted.

“We took on this initiative because we have branded 2015 as our year of care,” vice principal Yvonne Rammuki said. “When we heard about the blankets we thought ‘all hands on deck’.”

She said some grannies and parents had helped staff to knit. It took about a month and “balls and balls and balls of wool”, Rammuki said.

Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Sello Hatang said the blankets would be distributed across all nine provinces to people who are in need.

“We will be reaching out to centres. We will be reaching out to people on the side of the road. We will be going far and wide,” he said.

Hatang said he was especially impressed by a group of women in Diepsloot in Johannesburg who, despite having nothing, had been prepared to contribute to the cause by knitting blankets.

For more information on this campaign, or on how to get involved, visit or see their Facebook page at

SAinfo reporter and