Nelson Mandela Foundation

One has been filled with pride at the work of the South African National Defence Force in the areas hit by Cyclone Idai, which caused catastrophic damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

South Africa, at the same time, had xenophobic and criminal activities directed at non-nationals. We call on law enforcement agencies to act with haste on those perpetrating these acts.

In recent weeks our thoughts have been with the peoples of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and New Zealand as they deal with disaster – the aftermath of the cyclone in the three African countries, and the fallout from the attacks on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayer on 15 March in which 50 people were killed.

In our neighbouring countries we see massive dislocation and significant loss of life, as the impact of climate change makes communities more and more vulnerable to extreme weather. The Nelson Mandela Foundation is supporting the relief effort.

In New Zealand we have seen how extremism, racism and hatred can manifest destructively even in societies where democracy is deeply rooted. The Foundation has congratulated Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on her decisive and compassionate response to the tragedy there.

For us institutionally, March began with the initial implementation of our 2019 to 2022 Strategic Plan. In order to drive the process contained in the plan with optimal focus, we have reconfigured both our programmes and our senior management team. Elsewhere in this issue of the newsletter we introduce the team.

I want to highlight three Foundation activities that took place in the last month, each one indicating our new strategic direction and demonstrating how we intend to focus energy and resources moving forward.

An experience that has moved me profoundly was a visit to a community in Venda where we have partnered with Vodacom to address the early childhood development (ECD) needs there.

Months ago the ECD centre there was little more than an overcrowded detention centre for the youngsters. Moreover, it was a dangerous site, with crumbling walls and pit latrines. In its place now is a facility fit for purpose and ensuring safety, dignity and educational stimulation for the children.

We are painfully aware that this community is but one of thousands in need around the country and that the challenge is a systemic one. This is why ECD is a critical focus area for our dialogue and advocacy programme. It is also why we are exploring ways of linking the research the programme members do and its advocacy work to the Mandela Day campaign. Do-gooding will not address the challenge facing us. Good work must be geared to transforming structures, systems and policies.

Also moving for me was our first experience of a new leadership development project with our international partners, specialist book publishers Blackwell and Ruth. They went to the Democratic Republic of Congo to interview Dr Denis Mukwege at his clinic, which is geared especially for treating women raped and violated in other ways.

Winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr Mukwege becomes the project’s first role model. This position is designed to provide direction and inspiration for our leadership development programming. 

This work, I believe, is critical in contexts where poor leadership, and in many instances simply an absence of leadership, undermines the best intentions of social actors.

Partnerships are central to our strategy for the next three years. In March we also unveiled a partnership with the Nelson Mandela University, designed to promote Mandela-related scholarships and utilise dialogue interventions to address critical social issues.

Between 6 and 8 March the university co-hosted with the Foundation and the Human Sciences Research Council a colloquium that addressed simultaneously Madiba’s legacy and the imperative to transform our society fundamentally.

The deliberations were robust and took place in a context of student protests on campus, reminding us that dialogue cannot be a talk shop nor an ivory tower endeavour – it must be used as an instrument of change.

Let us all strive to do differently as we build a country of our dreams.