Nelson Mandela Foundation Chief Executive Achmat Dangor outlined the Foundation’s plans to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday.
March 5 2008 – Nelson Mandela’s charity organisations announced their plans in Johannesburg to celebrate the former South African president’s 90th birthday, which is on July 18 this year.
Among the highlights of the year are the following:
- The sixth annual Nelson Mandela Lecture, to be delivered by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the president of Liberia and first elected woman African president, in Kliptown, Soweto, on July 12;
- A 46664 90th Birthday Concert in Hyde Park in London on June 27;
- In July, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation will launch a leadership facility for young Mandela Rhodes Scholars and future leaders in the Western Cape;
- The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund will host a joint sitting of Children’s Parliaments from seven Southern African countries via satellite in June;
- The launch of the Mandela School Community Network by the Nelson Mandela Institute for Educational and Rural Development and the Department of Education, later this year.
Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) chairperson Prof Jakes Gerwel gave tribute to Mr Mandela’s legacy at the event, which was attended by Madiba himself, his wife, Graça Machel, his daughters Zindzi and Zenani and other family members, as well as other invited dignitaries and the media.
“He decided to dedicate his life to the principles of freedom, non-racism and non-sexism,” said Gerwel. “And in the end, despite the suffering of him and his compatriots, South Africa triumphed – we all triumphed.”
Mr Nelson Mandela will turn 90 on July 18, 2008
Prof Gerwel said the birthday events programme, entitled “A Celebration of Ideas”, demonstrated Mr Mandela’s and the organisations’ “commitment to work for the upliftment of our country over at least the next 90 years”.
“Madiba has decided to join us here today not only to see all of you and to thank you for your support in making freedom a reality, but also to witness as we again make our pledge to him and to you, that we will continue his work on the long road ahead. We know that this road is a long one but we promise Madiba that we have the stamina and determination to travel it,” said Prof Gerwel.
46664 Communication and Public Relations Manager Chantal Cuddumbey said support for the Hyde Park concert “has been amazing”. “It is indeed fitting that 20 years after the “Free Mandela” concert which was held at Wembley Stadium, London will be the city hosting an event to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy,” said Cuddumbey.
Kimberley Porteus, director of the Nelson Mandela Institute for Educational and Rural Development, addressed Mr Mandela in isiXhosa:“Ulonwabele usuku lwakho oluhle lokuzalwa Tata, kutata sibamba ngazo zozibini, siyafunda kancinane.” (Have a great birthday, Tata. We are grateful for the work that you have done. We are learning slowly but surely.)
She outlined the launch of the Mandela School Community Network in May “as an engine for wider school change”. Porteus said the institute would choose schools in rural areas that demonstrate excellence and serve impoverished children.
Porteus said she committed the organisation to “re-imagine, replan and recommit to the realisation of justice in education in our lifetime”.
After the announcement, she said: “It’s an honour for us to be taking forward Madiba’s work in education, committing to the vision of achieving a dignified education collectively.”
Nelson Mandela Foundation Chairperson Prof Jakes Gerwel shares a moment with Mr Nelson Mandela
Asked how she would celebrate Madiba’s 90th year, Porteus said: “On Mr Mandela’s birthday, we will sing, dance, and celebrate the fact that human beings can make such a difference is one lifetime.”
Chief Executive of The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, Shaun Johnson, said: “In July as part of the 90th birthday celebrations … we’ll be announcing the launch of a very exciting, very innovative new leadership facility for young Mandela Rhodes Scholars and future leaders.” The Mandela Rhodes Foundation Scholarships programme “identifies and nurtures the young people who will be the leaders of our continent
SA Liberian Ambassador Lois Brutus said it was an honour for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to be the guest speaker for the sixth Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture.
“It is a pleasure for the first elected female African president to be guest speaker on such an occasion, and for me, the Kliptown venue is so moving.
“My president has accepted, and whether it is raining or snowing or shining, she will definitely be here.”
Previous speakers at the annual lecture were former United States President Bill Clinton, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Kenyan Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathai, President Thabo Mbeki and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Prof Gerwel said President Johnson-Sirleaf was an obvious choice. “She was the first elected African woman president. She is tackling the great task of bringing stability to a country that was torn apart over the past couple of years. She is an exemplary African politician.”
Members of Mr Mandela’s family look on
Sibongile Mkhabela, chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, said: “We will use the Celebration of Ideas to help change the way society treats children.”
“The Children’s Fund therefore will firstly have celebrations that are Southern Africa-oriented. We’ll be really looking at the identity of the African child.”
“We’ll also be creating an original platform, parliaments that are orientated towards children. We will have parliaments in at least six regional countries; these will be intended to assist young people and children in strengthening the democracy that we all appreciate and value.”
One of Mr Mandela’s daughters, Zindzi Mandela, said: “We are obviously immensely proud. It’s great to see his legacy being documented now that he is in his sunset years. Thank you, South Africa.” She also urged the nation to remember the example her father has set the country during currently difficult political times.
Prof Gerwel, who is chairperson of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation as well as the NMF, said afterwards, “All the organisations are working together in a sustained celebration over the year.”
Dangor said the programme of events had been developed with Mr Mandela’s philosophy in mind. “These events have to be inclusive, they musn’t be elite and they must focus on people who can most benefit from the activity, and that is why we’re focusing on the young people this year,” he said.
“I think all he would want to see is that we do not exclude people, we do not undermine the fundamental ethos that he believes in, such as non-racialism and an ability to reach out to all people, especially ordinary people,” he added.
Dangor said there would be no public events on Mr Mandela’s birthday on July 18, which he will spend with his family at his home in Qunu, Eastern Cape.