The great man himself in a South African
(Image: Nelson Mandela Foundation)
• Nelson Mandela Foundation
+27 11 547 5600
• Gallery: Mandela meets Bafana Bafana
• Education the focus of Mandela Day 2010
• SA families give back on Mandela Day
• World Leaders praise Mandela
• World Cup: SA’s great leap forward?
Morgan Freeman is Nelson Mandela. Well, the Oscar-winning Hollywood star played Mandela in Invictus, the Clint-Eastwood-directed drama about the 1995 Rugby World Cup and South Africa’s transition from apartheid to nationhood, earning another Academy nomination for his role.
But the relationship between Mandela and Freeman goes deeper than that, with a friendship of more than 10 years. The actor is also doing important work for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and has joined the likes of Oprah, Will Smith and Michael Jackson in developing a decided crush on South Africa.
Invictus tells the story of how Mandela used the opportunity of South Africa’s hosting of rugby’s most prestigious tournament to build bridges between the races. Newly made president, he deliberately sought to reconcile the previously powerful, conservative Afrikaner community resentful of the new black government with a long-oppressed black majority eager to overthrow symbols of the past – such as rugby.
A New York Times review describes Freeman’s performance as having “gravity, grace and a crucial spark of mischief” with a clear understanding of the great man’s character: “Mr Freeman and Mr Eastwood allow us glimpses of a complicated and somewhat melancholy man, carrying the loneliness of his long imprisonment with him and estranged from much of his family.”
Since filming the movie in South Africa in 2009, Freeman has developed an interest in the annual Nelson Mandela Day, declared an international day by the UN in November 2009 to celebrate Mandela’s humanitarian legacy.
“He has pledged ongoing commitment it,” said Zelda le Grange, Mandela’s spokesperson and personal assistant. “That kind of commitment is something very few people of his stature show.”
Mandela Day urges people across the world to dedicate at least 67 minutes of their time on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday, to volunteer in community work. The 67 minutes represent the 67 years Mandela spent serving his country.
To mark Mandela Day 2010, Freeman joined a group of celebrities on a six-day motorcycle road-trip across South Africa to raise awareness of the day and help out in poorer communities, leaving Johannesburg on 12 July and arriving in Cape Town on Mandela’s birthday.
Wearing a corduroy jacket, aviator sunglasses and peak cap, Freeman said in Cape Town that he hoped Mandela Day would help realise the former president’s dream for a new and just South Africa.
“We’re trying to head for a world where there’s peace and where we can teach our children about integrity of this vision,” Freeman said.
The celebrities all got their hands dirty working on over a dozen development programmes along the route of their trip, including erecting a fence at an HIV/Aids response centre in Khayelitsha, a township outside the Cape Town.
Freeman worked as hard as anyone else.
“We were overwhelmed by his dedication and commitment,” said Le Grange.
“He has deep appreciation for Mandela’s commitment to social injustice and that was the reason for his participation and to help us promote the ethos of Mandela Day by leading through example.”
Freeman is one of many celebrity ambassadors of 46664, Mandela’s campaign to increase global awareness about HIV/Aids and raise funds to fight the pandemic in Southern Africa.
“Mandela has known Morgan Freeman for many years and they have remained close,” Le Grange says.
Invictus premiered in South Africa in December 2009, attracting an audience of over 48 000 in its first three days.
Mandela and Freeman watched the movie together. To get the role right, Freeman visited Mandela many times before and during filming. Later, the actor told CNN that Le Grange, Mandela’s wife Graça Machel, ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Mandela’s daughter Zindzi all told him his performance was “wonderful”.
- Download South Africa Now in PDF format (2.2 MB), or read selected articles online:
Powering towards a green economy
South Africa plans to build a massive $21.8-billion, 5 000 MW solar park in its semi-desert Northern Cape province as part of an aggressive push to grow its highly industrialised economy without increasing its carbon footprint.
The everyday beauty of Soweto
South African photographer Jodi Bieber has a special ability to bring out the beauty in the ordinary, even the disfigured. On the cover of Time magazine she made a mutilated Afghani girl look beautiful, and in her latest book Soweto she makes everyday township life shine.
Launchpad to a billion consumers
By offering to acquire Massmart for some $4.2-billion, Wal-Mart has joined the parade of global companies looking to South Africa as a springboard into what is increasingly seen as the world’s last great investment frontier.
A trek to the start of time
It will probe the edges of our universe. It will be a virtual time machine, helping scientists explore the origins of galaxies. It’s the Square Kilometre Array, and South Africans are at the heart of its development.
Brewing up a global brand
Miller Lite. Tastes great. Less filling. And brought to you by world-beating South African company SABMiller.
Looking south and east for growth
As the shift in global economic power gains momentum, South Africa’s trade is moving eastwards and southwards in a pattern that both reflects the worldwide trend and helps drive it, writes John Battersby.
More than just a celluloid Mandela
There is a special bond between Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman and the man he played in the Clint Eastwood movie Invictus, South African statesman Nelson Mandela.
Africa in the new world order
Kgalema Motlanthe, South Africa’s deputy president, looks at how African economies’ resilient performance during the global financial crisis points to the continent’s new place in a changing world.
Mining history for new solutions
Mark Cutifani, CEO of the multinational AngloGold Ashanti mining company, examines why South Africa’s past is key to successfully doing business here in the future.
Turning up the media volume
Since 1990, South Africa has been a noisy place. After decades of apartheid censorship, the lifting of restrictions on the media led to a cacophony of debate. For the first time in centuries, everyone could be heard, and it was sometimes deafening, writes Anton Harber.
A joule of an energy-efficient car
South Africa, which builds BMWs and Mercedes Benzes for the US market, is in the thick of the race to deliver a truly practical – and stylish – electric car. Meet the Joule.
South Africa: Time to believe
The forgiving philosophy of “ubuntu” helps explain how South Africa managed to transcend its turbulent apartheid past and create a unified democracy, writes Simon Barber.
Finding sound real estate investment
South Africa’s post-apartheid transformation and new middle class are fuelling demand for affordable homes. For private equity fund International Housing Solutions, that means opportunity.
My normal, crazy, mixed-up country
South African hit movie White Wedding is now showing in the US to rave reviews. Jann Turner, who directed and jointly wrote and produced the film, writes about the place that inspired it – South Africa.
Bring on the braai
All South Africans love it – including Nobel peace prize-winning Desmond Tutu – and its rich, smoky smell floats over the country every Sunday. Celebrate the braai with our great recipe for making boerewors, traditional South African farmer’s sausage.