Launch of Nelson Mandela International Day 2012
South African musicians, television and radio personalities, representatives from government, dignitaries, leaders in big business and members of the media gathered today at Uncle Tom’s Centre at the Hector Pieterson Museum in Orlando, Soweto, to commemorate the official launch of Nelson Mandela International Day 2012.
Celebrated across the globe on Nelson Mandela’s birthday – 18 July – Mandela Day was formally recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in 2009. Today Mandela Day is an international movement of good pioneered by champions across the globe.
In his welcoming address, Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory CEO Achmat Dangor spoke about the origins of the global movement and how Madiba himself shifted the responsibility of doing good onto us all.
“In 2008 a benefit concert was held in London to honour Mr Mandela’s 90th birthday. In front of an audience of millions of people, Madiba changed the slogan of Mandela Day from ‘It's in our hands' to ‘It's in your hands’,” Dangor said.
“In this way Madiba sent out a message to the next generation of leaders to take responsibility for positive change to take place in this country.”
The purpose of the movement is to follow Mr Mandela’s example and inspire individuals to take action to make the world a better place, one small step at a time.
“Everyone can help change the world. Each individual has the ability to make the world around him or her a better place. One small step, when you add them all together, can become a global movement for good,” he said.
Describing the CycAlive initiative, a cycle tour from Johannesburg to Durban undertaken by students each year that focuses on building a non-racial society, Dangor reiterated that doing good shouldn’t be "welfare-ist", as he put it, but rather take place with and within communities.
Another initiative championed by individuals is the container library concept, pioneered by Breadline Africa. After discovering that a high percentage of schools in under-privileged areas have no form of library, Breadline Africa devised a concept of transforming shipping containers into container libraries.
In response, the South African Ministry of Education launched 94+ Schools for Mandela, a project that will see the upgrading of 94 education facilities around the country in 2012, one for each of Madiba’s years (he turns 94 this year).
Dangor spoke about the theme of Mandela Day, saying “start off by doing something with and within your communities, and make every day a Mandela Day. Build it into your daily culture so we can sustain the transformative process that this concept has inspired.”
He urged the audience to stick to an ethical framework when undertaking action for Mandela Day. The Mandela Day ethical framework can be downloaded here.
Dangor also highlighted some of the key projects that have already been pledged this year, including:
- South African Airways will host a children’s benefit evening.
- Pick n Pay Inland Region and all Hypers are set to run a massive book drive.
- Habitat for Humanity is undertaking a Mandela Day House-Build; the aim is to build 94 houses.
- CycAlive participants will cycle from Johannesburg to Durban to create awareness.
- Bikers will take part in Mandela Day. This will take place not as one event, but as numerous initiatives driven by the interest and motivation of bikers around the country.
“Go out and champion the idea that if you take action you can change the world, just like Nelson Mandela did,” he said.
Deputy Director of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in South Africa Helene Hoedl announced that all 17 UN agencies and programmes in South Africa will participate in this year’s Mandela Day initiative.
“We see these activities as a potent commemoration of those values embodied by Madiba; it is a day of activism and inspiration,” she said. “This year the UN is mobilising 63 info centres across the globe to take action and inspire change.”
Investec’s Linsey Sherman highlighted what Mandela Day can mean for corporate South Africa, saying that what started originally as a few companies getting involved has blossomed into company activism that lasts weeks and months around Mr Mandela’s birthday each year.
“Corporate South Africa has a great opportunity to allow for this platform where staff can get actively involved,” she said.
She shared an anecdote about a group of young bankers who spent a day in Alexandra township looking for a family in need.
“After identifying a family who had lost everything due to economic downturns, the bankers raised enough money to help kick-start a small business for the family to be self-sustaining again,” she said. “These young gentlemen even raised enough money to pay for the children’s schooling.”
Celebrities pledge to do good
South African celebrities who attended the launch event, including Bonang Matheba, Gert Johan Coetzee, ProVerb, Danny K and Tuks Senganga, pledged their support for the Mandela Day global movement.
“Artists of this country have had a close connection with Tata Madiba. I’m here to put a challenge out to my fellow musicians in this country,” said Danny K. “Inspire hope, lead by a great example out there, and pledge your support in the spirit of Madiba on your Twitter profiles and on your Facebook pages.”
Bonang Matheba, Yfm DJ and SABC 1 television presenter, said that her big aim is to speak to 6.7-million young girls before the end of 2012 as part of her "Carry yourself with confidence" campaign.
“There are so many young girls in and around Gauteng who lack basic sanitary products. With the help of Lifestyle I go on roadshows and try to talk to as many girls as possible, giving them products and giving them sound advice on all things girly,” she said.
Local rapper ProVerb promised to do his bit this Mandela Day by igniting inspiration and motivation among his fans.
“With this platform comes a big responsibility. I’m a believer that you can’t inspire and motivate people – everyone has that. You just have to ignite it. That’s the contribution I’d like to make, ignite other people’s fire,” he said.
Announcements will be made soon on how Cheesekids will activate young people to become active advocates for Mandela Day.
After the launch event, the crowd moved to White City in Soweto, to Tlhatlogang Junior Secondary School. Here everybody rolled up their sleeves and set to work painting classrooms, fixing doors and cleaning the school.
The day’s activities were inspiring and enjoyed by all as diverse people came together in unity and acted together to inspire change and make the world a better place.