As our friends and institutional partners know, the Nelson Mandela Foundation remains under an interim management structure while an independent investigation is conducted into anonymous allegations of impropriety and misconduct. By any measure this is a difficult time for the Foundation, and we are grateful for the goodwill and encouragement we have been experiencing. The latter has manifested in many ways, arguably most importantly in the collaborative work we have continued to do in the social justice arena.
In recent weeks the focus of our Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme has shifted in response to government’s decision to direct Covid relief funding to the sector. Through 2020 we worked cross-sectorally to identify and capacitate nearly 40 000 unregistered ECD centres around the country to begin the processes which will lead to recognition by the state and eligibility for state subsidies. We are now working with the Department of Social Development and our civil society and community-based partners to ensure that the relief funding reaches its intended beneficiaries as quickly as possible.
Especially vulnerable ECD practitioners have been amongst the communities we have prioritised for support through our continuing Each 1 Feed 1 campaign. In February the campaign, a partnership with the Kolisi and Imbumba foundations, and supported by multiple private sector donors, delivered more than a thousand food parcels and over 700 food vouchers to especially vulnerable communities in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Gauteng.
The flagship project for our work in the terrain of identity politics remains the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity (AFRE), a partnership with Columbia University in New York. In 2020 the fellowship programme was converted to a virtual experience very successfully, and with Covid realities the way they are, planning for 2021 has assumed use of virtual platforms for most of the year. February saw the successful completion of the preliminary selection of fellows for the 2021 cohort.
Informing all our work, as it always has, is a deep reliance on archival and other memory resources. In February the Archive and Research team supported projects as diverse as new books related to the life and times of Nelson Mandela, the processing of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s private papers, the marking of the 25th anniversary of the country’s Constitution, and the release of a documentary (Murder in Paris) on the 1988 assassination of Dulcie September. Recently the Foundation joined other civil society structures in calling on the French authorities to re-open the inquest into September’s murder.
Reckoning with South Africa’s oppressive pasts, of necessity, remains a key line of enquiry – and a passion – for the Foundation. Over the last three years all our teams have contributed in one way or another to the campaign to ensure that the long overdue compensation from South Africa’s gold mines reaches the former miners (and their families) who have suffered from silicosis and related lung diseases. Needless to say, this is yet another terrible manifestation of our colonial and apartheid migrant labour inheritance. In February the Foundation hosted a meeting of the Justice for Miners Forum.
So, the work continues. The Board and I are profoundly grateful to the Foundation staff who make this possible in a time of unprecedented challenge for the organisation. This time will pass. But the work will continue.