Mandela’s best birthday gift ever

18 July 2012

On 18 July, people across South Africa and around the world joined in celebrating Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday, and his vision of a better world for all, by giving some of their time for those less fortunate – together creating the ultimate birthday present for Madiba: the love of the world.

Singing for Madiba

At 8am on Wednesday morning, millions of South Africans, including pupils from the country’s schools, prominent artists and personalities, united their voices in song to wish the country’s favourite icon good health and a blessed day – a gesture of love and appreciation broadcast on national TV and by most radio stations.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga led pupils from a school in Limpopo in song.

Approximately 12.5-million school children participated in the initiative of Lead SA in partnership with the Department of Basic Education and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, supported by Shout, Brand South Africa and Proudly South African.

Lead SA said the unique and memorable rendition of the Happy Birthday song mark a place in time for all South Africans to preserve Madiba’s living legacy.

The organisation said they wanted to an enduring memory by giving him the best birthday present ever – the love of the world.

67 minutes for Mandela

In honour of the iconic leader, businesses, schools, government structures, charitable groups and ordinary South Africans gave 67 minutes of their time to give back to their communities.

July 18, which is known as International Nelson Mandela Day, is not only special to Madiba but to ordinary citizens as they celebrate by taking action to help change the world for the better.

And this year was no different, as people across the country played their part by ploughing back into communities through activities that included refurbishing schools and helping out at old age homes and hospitals.

Various events, both by government and non-governmental organisations, took place across the country. The national event was held in Zeerust, where Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile and the Premier of North West Thandi Modise set aside time to do community service.

Staff at the North West Premier’s office handed out gifts to three schools: Madiba Comprehensive School in Rooigrond, and Thutlwane and Madibogo Pan Primary school in Madibogo Pan.

Cabinet ministers get involved

Several other Cabinet ministers also rolled up their sleeves to do their 67 minutes. Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi was at the Refilwe Orphanage, Disability Centre in Cullinan, east of Pretoria, giving the centre much needed support.

The centre – which hosts 60 senior citizens, 200 vulnerable children and 56 people with disabilities – operates as a drop-in centre where vulnerable children, senior citizens and people with disability are cared for during the day by giving them food, educational and recreational activities.

Basic Education Deputy Minister Enver Surty led proceedings in Gauteng at the Batsogile Primary School in Pimville, Soweto.

Deputy Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi was at Boitumelo High School in Ficksburg, where she mobilised the local community to provide their time and labour for free to paint the school; laying the foundation for toilets; cleaning the school yard and planting trees.

Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu and her team handed over blankets, soup and pizza and to people living on the streets in and around Tshwane on Tuesday night.

Provincial initiatives

Provinces also honoured their 67 minutes pledge. The Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport undertook a cleaning campaign at the Mabopane Driver’s Licence Testing Centre – one of its busiest centres in Tshwane. The campaign created a new face for the centre, while helping to make it environmentally friendly.

Other activities included story-telling, motivational talks as well as sporting activities.

In the Eastern Cape, the Department of Transport, together with Minister Ben Martins and Transport MEC Thandiswa Marawu, honoured the 67 minutes initiative by painting road markings in Sutherland Street in Mthatha before teaching pupils at Milton Mbekele Senior Secondary about road safety.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) played their part countrywide as their staff dedicated their 67 minutes to 15 projects.

One of the projects was the New Jerusalem Children’s Home in Midrand. An estimated 60 IEC staff members cleaned, painted and heped with maintainance at the home, which provides residential care for abandoned, abused, traumatised, orphaned or HIV-Positive children and vulnerable youth.

Others include the Ratanang School for people with disabilities in Limpopo, the Othandweni Family Care Centre in Soweto, and the Kgomotsego Old Age Home in Kuruman.

IEC Chairperson Pansy Tlakula said she was excited at the high levels of energy demonstrated by IEC officials nationally, and proud that the organisation was involved in so many projects.

They hoped that all who worked on the project would remember the values that Madiba embraced and that they would honour his legacy every day through acts of kindness to fellow South Africans.

On Wednesday evening, soccer fans at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban sang Happy Birthday to Madiba ahead of the kick-off of the match between AmaZulu and Manchester United.