The past week’s devastating fires in the Knysna area and destructive Cape Town storm have compounded the dire need already crippling many disadvantaged South African communities. This brings substance to the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s new “Action against poverty” theme for Nelson Mandela International Day (Mandela Day).
Speaking at the Cape Town public launch of the new theme at the Castle of Good Hope today, Luzuko Koti, the Foundation’s director of communications and outreach, sketched the stark reality of a society where there are parents who have no food for their children, in contrast with the abundance others take for granted.
“We all have a responsibility to take action against poverty,” said Koti, noting the importance of “making every day a Mandela Day”. This year, the Foundation, which wanted to create a society of integrity that was “values based”, aimed to visit towns and cities across the country where people were making a difference for Mandela Day, whether they were making blankets or distributing food packs.
“On 18 July, we must get together to celebrate what we are doing the other 364 days of the year,” he said.
The Cape Town event doubled as an expo for a selection of Mandela Day’s more prominent participants, including Habitat for Humanity, Soul City, Stop Hunger Now, Bridging Ages, the National Development Agency and others. It followed closely on the recent Johannesburg launch at Constitution Hill of the new strategic direction for Mandela Day.
The Foundation this year shifted the focus of Mandela Day from simply making every day a Mandela Day to encouraging South Africans to seek out projects that have sustainability, reach and impact.
The Foundation’s Mandela Day manager, Yase Godlo, said at the launch that the expo served to showcase the Mandela Day campaign across the world and especially South Africa.
Mandela Day is an international campaign centred around the United Nations’ 2009 declaration of Nelson Mandela’s 18 July birthday as Nelson Mandela International Day. On this day everyone, everywhere, is encouraged to take concrete steps towards improving life for others. The campaign is now observed in 149 countries.
Madiba “dreamed what was impossible and kept the dream alive”, said Lebo Ramafoko, chief executive officer of the Soul City Institute, who also spoke at the launch. She said the call for action against poverty was a natural fit for the social justice organisation with a vision to protect young women and girls.
Important actions against poverty included making sure that girls and young women had access to sanitary towels so they did not have to miss school several days a month.
Shaun Johnson, executive director of The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, said he had had the “incredible privilege” of being associated in some way or the other with Nelson Mandela over the course of 23 years. Mandela had been concerned that his work should continue when he was no longer there.
“Nelson Mandela believed that anything – including education – was solvable in the world, and that nothing was possible without education.”
He said next year would mark Mandela’s 100th birthday and that The Mandela Rhodes Foundation worked hard to fulfill the promise made to him in 2003 that there would be 100 Mandela Rhodes scholars across the continent by that time.
The vibrant choir of the Luhlaza Senior Secondary School greatly enhanced the Cape Town launch programme, which was also attended by celebrity soccer players Nathan Paulse, Mark Mayambela and Roscoe Pietersen from the Ajax Cape Town club.
Paulse said he was who he was “purely because of Nelson Mandela”, who wanted everyone to have a voice and be empowered. He asked those at the launch: “How do you live Mandela Day every day?”
Palesa Mokooane, Western Cape provincial manager for Soul City, led a dialogue around gender-based violence with participants in the institute’s RISE young women’s programme. RISE seeks to understand gender-specific risk factors and to help young women mitigate this vulnerability through appropriate peer support.
When the dialogue was over, those who attended the launch were invited to visit the various participating organisations’ displays.
Stop Hunger Now gives companies the opportunity to make a commitment for Mandela Day by packing bags of food comprised of rice, soya, soup mix and vitamins. Operations coordinator Michelle Anders said the organisation also contributed to disaster relief, such as with the Knysna and recent Hout Bay Imizamo Yethu township fires.
Habitat for Humanity South Africa marketing manager Adrienne Burke said poverty could be eradicated if everyone worked together. The organisation’s vision is a country where everyone has a decent place to live. Burke said home was the entry point for communities to build strength, stability and self-reliance.