The Elders launch global campaign on Mandela Day

Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, and The Elders, a group of respected international leaders working together for peace and human rights, marked the organisation’s 10th birthday on Nelson Mandela International Day by launching a global initiative to continue Mandela’s “long walk to freedom”.

Activist Graça Machel, widow of Nelson Mandela, and The Elders, a group of respected international leaders working together for peace and human rights, marked the organisation’s 10th birthday on Nelson Mandela International Day. (Image: NMF)

The year-long #WalkTogether campaign, which aims to promote peace, health, justice and equality, will run until 18 July 2018, which would have been Mandela’s 100th birthday.

Machel addressed a substantial crowd consisting of Capetonians and visitors, before leading a walk from the Grand Parade – opposite the Cape Town City Hall where Mandela made his first public speech after his release in 1990 – through the city to the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

She was accompanied by several fellow Elders: Pakistani lawyer and human-rights activist Hina Jilani, former Irish president Mary Robinson, former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, and Norway’s first female prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Richard Branson, one of The Elders, on the Grand Parade on Nelson Mandela International Day. (Image: NMF)

Also in attendance was former president of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari and UK philanthropist and businessman Richard Branson, one of the founders of The Elders. Branson told local radio, “For a lot of people, Madiba’s legacy is alive and well, but we have to fight every day to keep it alive.”

Nelson Mandela launched The Elders on 18 July 2007, his 89th birthday, asking its members to “speak truth to power, raise the voices of the voiceless and offer hope where there is despair”. According to its mission statement, The Elders “ … joined forces to champion the voices – and deeds – of groups who live the values of empathy, compassion and solidarity in the work they do to improve their lives, and those of their communities. That’s what #WalkTogether is about.” The group rededicated itself to those challenges on its 10th anniversary.

Human-rights activist Kumi Naidoo, who introduced the leaders to the crowd at the Grand Parade, said he hoped in 12 months’ time everybody who joined the walk would feel “a sense of pride” that they started the global campaign.

To cheers, Machel said “when Mandela passed on, we pledged to uphold his values” and that this was what The Elders wanted to do achieve with the #WalkTogether campaign. She noted, “We want him to feel that, wherever he is now, we still love him dearly.”

Social activists at the event also focused on grave societal problems in Cape Town communities. Members of the Mitchells Plain Crisis Forum highlighted the intolerable levels of abuse and killings of women and children, while Cape Flats youth activist Ashwin Jansen focused on the grip of gangsterism in many areas.

Among the Capetonians participating in the walk were Shilda Santrucek from Newlands, who was there “to commemorate Nelson Mandela” and to show her “absolute love” for him, and Rodney Ruiters from Elsies River, who said he wanted to celebrate Mandela’s memory and all he had done for South Africa.

Yusrah Slamdien, who works at the nearby College of Cape Town, said as a swimming teacher she usually taught water skills to disadvantaged children on Nelson Mandela Day. This year, she had not planned anything for the day and therefore decided to participate in The Elders event.

US tourist Carol Stockman said it was “wonderful” to be in Cape Town on Nelson Mandela’s birthday. She had already dropped off books for the Mandela Day Book Mountain at the Community Chest in Bree Street, and was delighted to be part of the #WalkTogether launch event.

On Monday, the group released the #Elders10story film featuring previously unseen footage from its initial meeting with Nelson Mandela.

Discover the story of how The Elders were mandated with Madiba’s vision, their reflections on being invited to join, their impact and how they seek to respond to the challenges that face our world today.

Mandela’s Vision for a Better World

Ten years ago today Nelson Mandela founded The Elders and we began working for peace, justice and human rights for all. To celebrate, we’ve created this film featuring previously unseen footage from our initial meeting with Nelson Mandela. Discover the story of how The Elders were mandated with Madiba’s vision, their reflections on being invited to join, their impact and how they seek to respond to the challenges that face our world today. Please share to help continue inspiring hope! #Elders10story

Posted by The Elders on Monday, 17 July 2017