Thousands gather at the Union Buildings to remember Mandela

Nelson Mandela would have been very proud to see that South Africa has become a South Africa for all who live in it, advocate George Bizos said, addressing people gathered in Pretoria on Sunday 10 December for the annual Mandela Remembrance Walk & Run.

The event, hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Gauteng provincial government and the City of Tshwane, marked its fourth year this year. It started and ended at the Union Buildings.

The walk was led by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, Gauteng Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, Nelson Mandela Foundation Trustee Maya Makanjee, and the Foundation’s Director of Communications and Outreach, Luzuko Koti.

Makhura said the event was about bringing people together and showing a renewed commitment to Nelson Mandela’s dream for the country – the dream of building a country that is non-racial, non-sexist, united, prosperous and truly democratic.

More than 19 000 people participated in the race, including football legends Lucas Radebe, Aaron Mokoena and Kalusha Bwalya. The atmosphere was vibrant, with participants holding South African flags and messages – "Remember Mandela", "Nelson Mandela 1918-Forever", and "We love you Tata", among others – as they filled the streets of Pretoria.

The event marks four years since Mandela passed away, and proceedings started with a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the occasion. Four wreaths were laid by the dignitaries from the Gauteng government and the Foundation to symbolise the four years.

Struggle veterans Sophia Williams-De Bruyn and Bizos were also in attendance, and addressed the crowds at the end of the race. Williams-De Bruyn thanked the participants for coming to commemorate Mandela, and encouraged all South Africans to live the values that Mandela stood for, saying: “Mandela had unique qualities of hard work, integrity, and resilience. We should live out these values.”

Bizos spoke passionately of his friend and the times they had gone through during the struggle for freedom. “Mandela would have been very proud to see that the thing that he fought for, the thing that he was jailed for, had become a reality. That South Africa had become a South Africa for all who live in it.”

He encouraged the crowds, saying that even though Mandela couldn't become South Africa’s first black advocate, as he had wanted, he became the best attorney and a master of our country. “Try to follow in his footsteps, emulate that.”

In his vote of thanks, Koti thanked the veterans for supporting the Foundation and always making sure they are accurate when they speak of Mandela. He also thanked the crowd for participating in their numbers. “We are here today to witness the love you have all come here to show.”

Koti said the event also marked the wrapping up of the year of Oliver Tambo, adding that next year will be the centenary year of Mandela.

The top runners for the women’s race were in Karien van Duyker (junior category), Charne Bosman (40 to 49), Maria Bendana (50 to 59), Frances van Blerk (60 to 69), Elsa Meyer (60 to 69) and Annette van Rooyen (80 and above). The overall female winners were Rudo Mhonderwa (1st), Rutendo Nyahora (2nd) and Glenrose Xaba (3rd).

The best male runners were Ryan Mphahlele (junior category), Johannes Kekana (40 to 49), Nel Mtsweni (50 to 59), Francis Mukuka (60 to 69), Elias Raphulu (70 to 79) and A~tlehang Baiphethi (80 and above). The overall male winners were Sibusiso Nzima (1st), Lucky Mohale (2nd) and Reghen Magwai (3rd).