The Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang, was on Friday 15 February 2019 awarded the Keys of the City of Florence by its Mayor, Dario Nardella. Hatang was awarded this special honour to recognise his work in human rights and promoting the legacy of Nelson Mandela.
The keys were accompanied by a certificate that reads: “To Sello Hatang, who carries out the challenging and luminous task of keeping Madiba’s legacy alive. We share with him a long history of friendship and the ideal of an open society based on remembrance, solidarity, equality and respect for human rights.”
Mayor Nardella reflected on the long histories of interconnection between Florence, Italy, Nelson Mandela and the Foundation. He emphasised the need to intensify the work during these challenging times of intolerance.
In response, Hatang expressed his gratitude to the people of Italy in general, and Florence in particular, for their friendship, which has endured over 10 years. He noted that the country and the city are hosts to the Nelson Mandela Forum, which has helped keep the legacy alive in Italy. He said that the honour being accorded to him was indelibly linked to the honour that the City of Florence bestowed on Madiba himself, including Freedom of the City and the Seal of Peace.
In reflecting on the solidarity between the two countries, Hatang quoted Madiba’s words in 1998: “In as much as we benefited immensely from the support of the Italian people in our struggle for freedom and in our political transition, we are keen to draw on your experience in reconstruction and development. It is therefore only natural that democratic South Africa should place such a high priority on developing all-round links with Italy. We appreciate Italy's contribution to the consolidation of our democracy.”
Said Hatang, “I regard this honour as a gift to my organisation, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, its Trustees, management and staff, and the Mandela family. To my wife and children, who allow me to do the work that I do. And above all, I dedicate it to the memory of Madiba and to all in Italy and South Africa who are committed to working hard to ensure that freedom reigns.”
He went on to dedicate the award to those “who give hope to the hopeless and open their homes to a stranger, a migrant knocking and looking for a place to call home. Keep going against the tide and temptation to build walls instead of bridges.”