About the Nelson Mandela Foundation

Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first democratically elected President. On 9 May 1994, soon after our landmark election results were in, he was unanimously elected President by South Africa’s new Members of Parliament.

The next day Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was sworn in at an inauguration ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

He vowed to only serve one term as President and in 1999 he stepped down to make way for President Thabo Mbeki.

Soon after the new President was inaugurated on 16 June 1999, Mandela was on the telephone to rally his staff for new tasks ahead. They had to remind him that they no longer worked for him and so the Nelson Mandela Foundation was born. As Mandela’s post-presidential office it provided the base for his charitable work, covering a wide range of endeavour, from building schools to HIV/AIDS work, to research into education in rural areas to peace and reconciliation interventions.

Five years later the Foundation began its transition into an organisation focused on memory, dialogue and legacy work. A comprehensive refurbishment of the Foundation’s building provided it with an appropriate physical home, the Centre of Memory. The Centre was opened on 18 November 2013, three years to the day after Mandela last used the building as his office.

The Centre focuses on three areas of work: the Life and Times of Nelson Mandela, Dialogue for Social Justice and Nelson Mandela International Day.

The Centre works closely with its sister organisations, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation. It co-ordinates its activities with those of other institutions that have a stake in its Founder’s legacy, including the 46664 Campaign, the Nelson Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, the Nelson Mandela Museum and the Robben Island Museum.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation delivers to the world an integrated, dynamic and trusted resource on the legacy of Nelson Mandela and with this, our mandate to promote the vision and work of our Founder by convening dialogues and creating platforms for engagement around critical issues to promote social justice and drive positive change.

South Africa occupies a unique space in Africa and globally as an example of a country that emerged from the intersections of deeply rooted racial, cultural and political divides contestants into stakeholders.

The Foundation’s mandate is to relevantly and tangibly use memory and dialogue to inform, develop and define. It is the role of an embracing educator – whether you are an adult or a child - to utilise the history, experience, values, vision and leadership of our Founder and key stakeholders to provide an impactful platform and springboard to drive positive change.

The Foundation’s mandate

Nelson Mandela’s legacy has created the opportunity for our nation to achieve a common future. The journey continues through the Foundation’s mandate to deliver on key pillars of active engagement and content to both local and international publics.

Nelson Mandela’s legacy lives on in the work of the NMF in three core areas:

The Nelson Mandela Day Campaign

The message behind this campaign is simple – that each individual has the ability and responsibility to impact positive change every day. It is the activation of our great Founder’s ethos and demonstrates that one man’s vision has indeed inspired a global movement for good. The call to action is: Take action, inspire change and make every day Mandela Day.

This will become and even more vital means of honouring and activating Madiba’s legacy and binds government, civil society, industry and the general public in a common purpose.

Memory through the archive and resources on the life and times of Nelson Mandela

The Memory is physically hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. Through this programme, publics can access rich information and resources on the life and times of Nelson Mandela that are made tangible and relevant.

The Mandela Archive is infinite, fragmented, and scattered both geographically and institutionally.  It is neither the intention of the NMF, nor its mandate, to bring all these materials into a single physical collection. 

The imperative is to document this vast resource, facilitate access to it, and promote its preservation and use.

Substantial and invaluable collections have been built up and will remain at the heart of all the NMF’s memory work.

The Foundation through its Research and Archive work:

  • Locates, documents and promotes the preservation of these scattered resources

  • Collects and curates Mr Mandela’s personal archive

  • Promotes public access to these resources

  • Facilitates research by individuals and institutions

  • Utilises an array of information-delivery platforms to make information available to global and local audiences.

Dialogue for Justice

Dialogue is fundamental to the legacy of Nelson Mandela and to South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. Dialogue is at once a vital instrument for addressing critical social issues and the most effective vehicle for sharing memory, for growing it, and for engaging it in the promotion of justice and social cohesion.

The Dialogue Programme endeavours to create relevant platforms and find sustainable solutions to critical social issues. 

The Foundation through its Communications and Outreach work:

  • Provides dialogical platforms and springboards for all its memory work

  • Undertakes research and initiates advocacy on critical social issues impacting on its mandate

  • Hosts or convenes dialogue processes and engagements relevant to its mandate

  • Promotes coordination, resource-sharing and collaboration between memory institutions

  • Disseminates the results and lessons learned from dialogue processes

The Nelson Mandela Day Campaign

Take Action. Inspire Change. Make every day a Mandela Day

Madiba has followed three rules through-out his life which he did at great personal sacrifice: 1. Free yourself, 2. Free others, and 3. Serve everyday – it was not just his mantra, it was his way of life.

If the legacy of Nelson Mandela’s life and work is to be dynamic, it must be “owned” by current and future generations. It must be accessible to everyone, and applied in constantly changing contexts of time and place.

The Mandela Day campaign was inaugurated as such a vehicle to achieve this. The message behind this campaign is simple – that each individual has the ability and responsibility to impact positive change every day.

Its objective is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so, to build a global movement for good. Ultimately it seeks to empower communities everywhere.

Individuals and organisations are free to participate in Mandela Day as they wish. We do, however, urge them to find inspiration for their contribution in the legacy of Nelson Mandela and to adhere to the ethical framework of “service to one’s fellow human” every day.