Mandela’s legacy lives on in each of us

Nelson Mandela’s advocacy of peace, human rights and reconciliation permeates throughout the world. His ideals live on in the good deeds of ordinary people across the planet.

Image description Nelson Mandela leaves a positive legacy, with everyone encouraged to improve the world. From Mandela Day, to feeding the hungry and building houses for the poor, every act of kindness counts. (Image: Mandela Day Media Tool Kit)


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Priya Pitamber

“It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.” Nelson Mandela’s advice has left a lasting impact; his memory, his work, and his beliefs live on in the hearts and minds of South Africans and the global community, in people playing their part to improve the state of the world.

In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously agreed that 18 July, Mandela’s birthday, should be declared Nelson Mandela International Day. The purpose of the declaration was to “honour the long history of Mandela’s leading role in the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa”.

Mandela strove to build a better society, wherever he was. As such, the resolution also recognised his “values and dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities”, the UN site reads.

It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said international the theme behind the day was “Take Action, Inspire Change”, which highlighted the importance of working together to build a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world.

In South Africa, July is also known has Mandela Month. Areas flagged for improvement are shelter, volunteerism, education, literacy, food and security.

Kicking off Mandela Month

Mandela Month acts of goodwill started across South Africa at the beginning of the month. In early July, in the Cape Town suburb of Morning Star, a group of prisoners worked with the Department of Human Settlements to renovate and build 16 homes in the township.

Deputy Minister Zou Kota-Fredericks, in partnership with the Department of Correctional Services and other stakeholders, visited the site where prisoners put their handyman skills to use in building homes and renovating existing structures. The inmates were from the Goodwood and Pollsmoor correctional facilities.

One resident, Simon Filander, was at a loss for words when the inmates and the department showed up on his doorstep, ready to get to work. “This makes things easier,” he said. “There is no word in the dictionary that I can look up to explain how grateful we are that this is happening to us.”

Manelisi Hlakuva, an inmate at Goodwood Correctional Centre, was glad to be part of the initiative. “We are here to help this community, also in honour of the late Tata [Mandela],” he explained. “He also valued helping other people and we also decided it was good for us to make a positive contribution to the community.”

67, the charmed number

The Nelson Mandela Foundation encourages the power of one person to make a change. “Mandela has been making an imprint on the world for 67 years, beginning in 1942 when he first started to campaign for the human rights of every South African. His life has been an inspiration to the world.”

The organisation has encouraged people to give 67 minutes of their own time to do something good and to make a positive contribution to humankind. This year, Stop Hunger Now launched the Southern Africa Million Meal Challenge. The meal-packing drive will take place in South Africa’s three major cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban. Thousands of volunteers will work in 67-minute shifts to pack a million meals.

“This is a world first attempt at a country packaging one million meals in one day with three cities involved and being undertaken completely by corporate volunteers who want to spend their 67 minutes in a manner that is not only fun but also ensuring no child goes hungry,” said Saira Khan, the chief executive of Stop Hunger Now Southern Africa.

Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, is the chief patron of the organisation. It has inspired local celebrities Elvis Blue, Roxi Wardman and Chad Saaiman to take part in this year’s Mandela Day challenge.

Wardman, the winner of South African Masterchef in 2014, will be doing her part in Durban. She said she loved to get involved to support the community where she could. “I’m hoping to help and feed all those hungry people out there, and meet like-minded individuals who want to change the world slowly but surely.”

She said when she thought of Mandela the ideas of equality, unity, rainbow nation, love, and peace came to mind. “I keep his ideas alive, by never judging anyone who comes in my path, and trying to do my part in society.”

Changing the world, one book at a time

“South Africa’s democratic vision is about making it possible to give our youth a fighting chance – that is, the opportunity to try,” said the chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang. “Education is still the foundation of this opportunity. The most basic building block that holds that foundation together is still literacy.”

Corporates have responded to the organisation’s call to donate container libraries to schools across the country. The most recent recipient of books, from the Cotton On Foundation, was Batsogile Primary School in Soweto, Johannesburg.

The group believed education was the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, explained the general manager of the Cotton On Foundation, Tim Diamond.

“At the dawn of the 21st century, in a world where knowledge truly is power and literacy is the skill that unlocks the gates of opportunity and success, we all have a responsibility as parents, as caregivers, as educators, as leaders and as citizens, to instil in our children the critical drive for literacy and learning so that we can give them the chance to fulfil their dreams,” Hatang said.

With every small act of kindness completed, Mandela’s legacy can only continue to thrive and improve the world in every small, or big way, possible.

See the Nelson Mandela Foundation website or the Mandela Day website for more information.