Methodists from around Gauteng joined their presiding Bishop, Zipho Siwa, in putting some sweat behind their convictions in Bekkersdal, Gauteng, on Mandela Day. The area has been hard hit by service delivery protests in recent months.
Supporting Mandela’s vision to transform our nation through education, the Methodists backed up their many education initiatives with a significant act of service at Simunye High School in Bekkersdal. Mandela himself was educated at a Methodist school.
Bishop Siwa, presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and President of the South African Council of Churches, is passionate about the role of education in our nation. He had close ties to Nelson Mandela, preaching the sermon at his funeral and leading the Methodist Church’s pastoral care to Madiba and his family.
Bishop Siwa commented: “Madiba said that education can transform a nation. My vision is that all our children would have access to quality education. We can, through solid educational foundations bring forth a generation of people who will want to serve; a people who will have integrity and build on the legacy left by our forebears.”
About 170 people attended the event in Bekkersdal. The young people working at the neglected school fixed and cleaned windows, doors, floors and walls. The team was boosted by partner organisations Brand SA, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, SACLI and other local churches.
Building a generation of leaders will obviously take longer than a day’s hard work. In Bekkersdal the work started at Simunye High School on Mandela Day will be made sustainable by ongoing engagement with the local Methodist Church and the Brand SA staff team.
Passing on the mantle of leadership
Bishop Siwa also led a ceremony where the young people present committed to being leaders in the nation over their lifetimes. They planted trees which will symbolise each young leader’s desire and commitment to take up their own leadership space and grow into great trees, like Mandela.
Siki Dlanga, SACLI youth coordinator, said, “Mandela’s death was described as a great tree that had fallen.’Umthi omkhulu uwile, isithonga sivakala ngaphesheya komlambo.’ The trees we plant will visually remind us over the next 30 years of our commitment to grow as leaders in Madiba’s place, in the same way we see our trees grow in stature. The trees and forests left behind after we die will be a reminder to future generations of the commitments our generation made to the nation.”
The young people donned scarves designed to symbolise Mandela’s ‘freedom mantle’; in the same way the prophet Elisha, of the Bible, picked up the mantle of the prophet Elijah.
“We believe that the nation is about to experience a crossing of the Jordan moment and in order for that to happen the younger generation needs to deliberately ensure that they pick up the freedom mantle of Mandela and his generation,” said Dlanga. “We are coming out of the wilderness and are preparing to take on the giants in our society.” Crossing the Jordan is a biblical reference to a time of great change.
Dlanga said SACLI and the churches are looking at ways to ensure that the first year after Mandela’s death is filled with opportunities for young people to be inspired to take up leadership and to engage with other young leaders around a 30-year generational vision for the country. This will include a key gathering of young leaders between 5 December and 16 December 2014, a year after Mandela’s passing.
“We want to awake a post-Mandela generation of courageous, visionary, ethical God-fearing young leaders to serve South Africa.”