Nelson Mandela Foundation

The month of July is always a cluttered one for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, as we remember Madiba on his birthday and as the world marks Nelson Mandela International Day. But this year, as with so much else in a time of Covid-19, the month has been extraordinary. 

Let me begin by acknowledging the loss of many people dear to us. We mourn the passing of Ntate Andrew Mlangeni, and of Zindzi Mandela. Over many years we had come to know the surviving Rivonia trialists well, and knew that they represented, in a unique way, a generation of exceptional South African leadership. Ntate Mlangeni was the last of this group, and with his passing an era has ended. Zindzi was a special human being, someone who gave so much to the struggles for freedom in our country and who bore more than her fair share of trial and tribulation. We also lost a Mandela family in-law member, Mama Anna Gadikaenyana Mosehle. We mourn too the passing of Mme Matina Elsie Khoza. And we mourn with four colleagues who lost family members since the last newsletter went out.

Pain, then, was with us as we tackled the first-ever virtual Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture and held the Mandela Day campaign through a Covid-19 Mandela month. 

The Annual Lecture, by every measure, was an outstanding success. UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed a global audience with passion and with power. His call for a new world order, we have no doubt, will reverberate long into the future. We too, and many of our institutional partners, have been arguing that humanity needs a transformative social compact if it is to meet the multiple challenges of the twenty-first century. One which draws on ancient human knowledges, is rooted in respect for the Earth, and is dedicated to ending inequality and white supremacy in all their manifestations. As I said at the Lecture, “What a challenge; what a task!” 

In this month we have been reminded of a resilient and insidious white supremacy in our own country, as messages of support for Black Lives Matter by black sportswomen and sportsmen have been met with a disdain from white South Africans which is crude, crass and racist. Respected figures like Siya Kolisi and Makhaya Ntini have spoken about their experiences of systemic racism in organised sport and been vilified in consequence. Shame on those who will not listen. Shame on those who will not take action to change the status quo, when they have the power to do so.

Mandela month had impact despite the severe Covid-19-related restrictions on Mandela Day activations. We thank everyone who heeded the call and found a way to honour Madiba by reaching out to those in need. President Cyril Ramaphosa joined Siya Kolisi and the Foundation in a virtual reading session with the children of Ikageng Itireleng Aids Ministry in Soweto. The President of the UN General Assembly and the Secretary-General convened a special sitting of the General Assembly in New York to honour Madiba. In Potchefstroom on 18 July, together with our partners the Kolisi and Imbumba Foundations and Boxer/Pick ‘n Pay, we launched a new food voucher system for the Each1Feed1 campaign, designed to give vulnerable people more agency in determining the shape of emergency food supply. Many responded to the call to help Mabel Maleka raise the funding she needed to have the operation which restored her sight. Our gratitude goes to Dr Tebogo Maleka and his partners at Safesight Cataract & Eyelaser Centre. Others in need of such operations are now joining her in asking for what should be a basic human right rather than a project requiring philanthropic intervention. Nando’s worked with us in developing a Mandela month t-shirt which is raising funds for those most in need. Ford identified our need for a bakkie and donated a Ford Ranger, which will be used to do Mandela Day work in communities. Of course, the education of our children needs to be prioritised in all our planning, and the launch of 21 Acts of goodness for the matric class of 2020 is yet another attempt at reminding us that it takes a village to raise a child. Thanks to our partners Old Mutual Foundation and Love Life for birthing this initiative. I could go on recounting stories of Mandela Day care and hard work. Just one more - the month comes to a close with the perennial Ride4Hope activation, which this year will be dedicated to Covid-19 relief.

As we move into August, Women’s Month, we are haunted by the spectre of rising levels of violence against women and children in a time of Covid-19. We are working on a public education video with Josina Machel, VideoVision, the Presidency and UN Women. And we are consulting with our sister organisations the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation on strategies to combat this scourge. It is especially important at a time like this that we all live true to the Mandela Day mantra: take action, inspire change and make every day a Mandela Day. If we are to combat systemic poverty and inequality effectively, then 67 minutes of action in the name of Madiba is not enough. It is in your hands now.