July, the month of Madiba’s birth, Mandela Month, is always special for the Foundation. This year we had much to celebrate. Our activations in South Africa saw us working with multiple partners in communities as diverse as Hillbrow, Mvezo, Zwide, Houghton and the informal settlement in Gqeberha named Rolihlahla. We are grateful to everyone who supported Mandela Day by heeding the call to do what we can, with what we have, where we are. A special thank you to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation for stimulating interest from countries around the world. In New York they worked with us and the United Nations to mark the day, including securing Prince Harry to deliver a tribute to Madiba in the UN General Assembly.
I was in Tanzania for my fifth and final legacy Trek4Mandela, climbing Kilimanjaro with 18 others, including my daughter. It never gets easier. Instead it gets tougher. The initiative is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and has impacted on the lives of 1.5 million girls during the journey. This year we are hoping to reach our target of 2 million girls benefitting from the initiative. We are aiming to be active in 10 countries in this year.
Beyond Mandela Day campaigning work, the month of July brought inspiration from a range of other sources. We were able to announce Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados as our speaker for the 20th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, to take place in Durban on 12 November. Our Trustee Professor Tshilidzi Marwala was appointed rector of the United Nations University based in Tokyo. Friend of the Foundation, Professor Thuli Madonsela was elected Chairperson of the management board of the Cities Alliance. This is a global structure fighting urban poverty and supporting cities to deliver sustainable development. National sporting team Banyana Banyana, earning less and doing more, made us proud by winning a continental trophy for the first time. We also want to congratulate Benny McCarthy who was appointed as strikers coach by Manchester United Football Club. We’ve seen the beginning of our rail infrastructure being fixed. What a milestone! While this is worth celebrating, we have to encourage communities and the law enforcement agencies to protect such infrastructure. And we have seen the emergence, finally, of the semblance of a plan to address the country’s power supply challenge.
Of course, July 2022 marks the first anniversary of the wave of public violence which engulfed parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last year. That wave overtook all our Mandela Day planning and saw us part of clean-up interventions, emergency food relief and longer term peacemaking. We have just concluded a six-month mapping exercise in KwaZulu-Natal, the results of which suggest that while a lot of work is being done, the structural, systemic, causal factors which underlay the events of July 2021 remain very much in place. Both public policy and political will are proving inadequate in face of the challenge. New strains are being placed on the deep faultlines. Cultures and practices of lawlessness are rampant. What we are describing is a situation which is, if anything, even more volatile than the one which was exploited by saboteurs last year. It will only take a tremor to unleash another tidal wave. Former President Thabo Mbeki and our trustee Sello Moloko have come to similar conclusions in recent analyses of the country as a whole.
Wherever one looks, and by whatever yardstick one uses, our society is in deep and growing trouble. The recent mass rape of women in Krugersdorp put a spotlight on the impact of zama zamas (illegal miners who are taking over old unused mines) on the country’s crime problem. We congratulate the police for working swiftly to arrest the alleged perpetrators. We hope that these arrests will lead to convictions, which has been very low thus far. On the economy, spiralling petrol prices and interest rates are adding enormous strain to a depressed and despairing populace. This moment is a call for leadership, at all levels of society. Where on earth are we going to find it? We hope that each one of us will see a leader in themselves instead of waiting for such a leader to emerge in politics.