Nelson Mandela Foundation

It is hard to believe that the first month of 2020 is already behind us. For the Foundation 2019 ended on a very busy note, with the hosting of the highly successful 17th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture delivered by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng followed almost immediately by our Board of Trustees’ annual strategic retreat with members of management and, for the first time, external Board sub-committee members. The focus of the retreat was to take stock after an intense year and to decide on key strategic aims for 2020.

Very rich deliberation confirmed our existing 2019-2022 strategic plan and identified a range of shorter term objectives at different levels. Four will shape our work in the year ahead most profoundly. 

Firstly, achieving systemic change in society must remain the paramount aim for our work across all programmes.

Secondly, while we must protect our trusted convenor role, we should look for a growing boldness in taking public positions, challenging structures of power and fighting injustice through means other than dialogue and public education (for instance, through litigation). 

Thirdly, constitutionalism is reaffirmed as an overarching theme for all Foundation work. We must look to deepen both our understanding and our practice of it, and explore imaginative ways of harnessing its potential to address the interlinked global crises of democracy and capitalism. 

And fourthly, we will continue to focus our work in the areas of poverty and inequality (with early childhood development and land as priority issues), reckoning with the past, and identity politics. Gender, youth and institution-building will continue to be cross-cutting issues.

There was a poignant note at the Board retreat, as we took our leave from two of the founding Trustees, Dr Mamphela Ramphele and Ntate Tokyo Sexwale. Both were appointed by Madiba himself in 1999 on the basis of his personal relationships with them. The 20 years of service they have given to the Foundation would have made him proud. The Foundation stands indebted to them. 

On a personal note, I have appreciated the ways in which they have kept me on my toes over the last six years or so and will miss their wisdom. One of the last tasks they undertook as trustees was to contribute to the decision-making on a cohort of four new trustees. We are looking forward to "unveiling" the latter in the near future.

As we move into February, our energies are being harnessed around the 30th anniversary of Madiba’s release from prison on 11 February 1990. We have an exciting medley of activities planned, including a re-convening of members of Madiba’s 1990 reception committee at what was Victor Verster prison, a dialogue in the Cape Town City Hall with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee on the theme of "The New Prisons of Africa", and an address from the City Hall balcony by President Cyril Ramaphosa (who was, of course, on the balcony with Madiba that momentous evening in February 1990).  

We look forward to as many of our friends and other stakeholders as possible joining us on the day and exploring with us the significances of the anniversary to South Africa, our continent and the world. We wish you all a successful 2020. Thank you for your continuing support.