Nelson Mandela Foundation

Our  highlight for October was receiving yet another international award.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation was, this time, bestowed with the Champion of Humanity of Modern Times Award from the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF). The forum gathered in Turkey. It was during this convention that Mr Baobars Altuntas, the Founder and Chairman of WBAF announced that South Africa will host the Forum next year in Durban.

It was my singular honour and privilege to receive the award on behalf of the Foundation. The significance of the moment for me, went far beyond the simple receipt of an award. I was entrusted  to deliver a keynote address and to facilitate challenging dialogues on for instance, human migration and the plight of refugees. It was heart-warming to have been told that the message landed well, and considerable international interest was shown in our work. Donations were forthcoming, and our possible role in convening dialogue explored. We are grateful for the continued support. 

I was reminded again of the enduring power of Madiba’s legacy and the scale of its reach. The Foundation truly has a precious resource, and a weight of responsibility. The keynote address was themed, “Building Social Justice and Solidarity Through Our Institutions to Decrease Polarisation in Our World.” 

My reflection was on a range of global challenges to the successful mediation of social life arguing that having bases for solidarity and for social bonding becomes of vital importance. What do we do in contexts where the social contract underpinning democracy is failing? Where democracy itself is being captured by private interests? Where commodification and the forces of capital mostly shape political outcomes and collective life in ways that favour capital rather than social justice? 

Clearly, there are no quick-fix solutions to these challenges. A fundamental question becomes, what does all this mean for institutions such as the Foundation and WBAF? (And we ask this question of the Nelson Mandela Foundation all the time.) 

Well, I insisted, institutions become of critical importance. As Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue compellingly in their book Why Nations Fail, successful societies are always built around robust, effective and inclusive institutions. It is institutions such as these which drive responses to the challenge of mediating collective life. Key questions arise, people everywhere must consider how they stand in relation to all the multiple “others” around them, people who they may think of as different from themselves, people with whom they do not necessarily identify, or people they thought they knew, but who turn out differently. 

These questions resonate in a most profound way with the life of Nelson Mandela, which if it was nothing else, was centrally concerned with much the same issues. Grappling with questions such as this will become more and more of a priority as climate change renders swathes of the earth uncomfortable, if not impossible, for human habitation. Already we see mass migration from regions – mostly in the global south – which are being inordinately impacted on by climate change. 

Challenges to national boundaries and to the sovereignty of the nation state will grow. Humanity’s capacity to find and to hold the bases for social bonding will be stretched to breaking point. These are some of the lines of enquiry which we anticipate Prime Minister Mia Mottley will be exploring when she delivers the 20th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Durban on 12 November at 14h00. This is an event not to be missed! 

Please claim your ticket here.