Topnews, Südafrika

12. Juli 2021


Dear Friends

July 18th is celebrated around the world as International Nelson Mandela Day. It is a day set aside by the United Nations (UN) to pay homage to a great leader and human being who dedicated his life to the liberation of his country and played a pivotal role in promoting peace and reconciliation across the world.

Nelson Mandela’s legacy lies in the desire to foster transformational change and rise above his own fears. By his own admission, he was an ordinary human being but through his actions, he became an extraordinary symbol of what can be achieved when we work together for the common good. Nelson Mandela may have been born in South Africa but has been claimed by the world over. Aware of his far-reaching influence, he said, “People, not only in our country but around the world, were inspired to believe through common human effort, injustice can be overcome and that together a better life for all can be achieved”.

Early Days

Born on 18 July 1918 in the rural village of Mvezo in the Eastern Cape, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela dreamt of contributing to the struggle and emancipation of his people. Against much adversity, he qualified as a lawyer and, along with another Struggle stalwart, Oliver Tambo; he established the first black law firm in South Africa. He began his active political participation through membership of the African National Congress (ANC) and civil disobedience campaigns. He was arrested by the Apartheid Police on 05 August 1962 and tried for sabotage at the Rivonia Trial. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he spent 27 years in jail, much of which would be served on Robben Island. History is replete with stories of his bravery in the years preceding his imprisonment and following his release from prison in 1990. Rather than being embittered and disillusioned, Nelson Mandela would go on assume a more prominent status by calling for unity, reconciliation, peace, and justice for embattled South Africans.

His contribution to South Africa’s political transition has served as an example for other warring nations seeking an end to hostility and securing a path to truth and reconciliation. While the name Nelson Mandela is synonymous with “healer, bridge-builder, reconciler, truth seeker, justice warrior, human rights activist, peace, forgiveness and love”, it also serves as a calling to do better and be better.

A Global United Nations Icon

In 2009, the UN chose to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela for his contribution to the global human rights, equality, democracy and promoting a culture of peace in the United Nations by officially declaring the 18th of July as International Nelson Mandela Day. It was in recognition of 67 years of service fighting for human rights and social justice, and served as a call to action. This led to the “My 67 Minutes” campaign, a minute for each year Mandela spent fighting his cause.

In 2015, it adopted a revised set of the “United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners”– known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. Falling under the ambit of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNDOC), it advocates for the humane treatment of prisoners. Nelson Mandela was a firm believer of rehabilitation, compassion, empathy, and mutuality. He believed in the good of the human race and advocated for leaders to practice responsible and principled leadership. He was of the view that No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”  Accordingly, dignity should be the lodestar guiding authorities in dealing with people deprived of their liberty. In keeping with Mandela’s legacy, South Africa will continue to advocate for humane conditions of imprisonment as per the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Bringing hope to the world

The COVID pandemic has caused massive disruptions across the world, leaving behind untold human suffering and devastation in its wake. The global economy is in turmoil and millions have lost their jobs, which have not only upended the social fabric of society but created a deep sense of uncertainty, fear, restlessness and displacement within the human race. I am reminded of a similar time when the world was engulfed in fear over the proliferation of AIDS in the 1990s. Even then, Nelson Mandela intuitively understood the importance of collective action, when he proclaimed, “We have to act, we have to act decisively and, above all, we must work together. The answer to turning around the devastating impact of the epidemic lies within us”. There has never been a more relevant time for the world to come together in unity and reach out a helping hand to one another. So, I urge you to make best use of your 67 minutes to do something meaningful to uplift the lives of those around you.

We do not need to look too far but rather around us. A simple act of kindness, a genuine smile and a helping hand can go a long way in making a difference in the lives of others. Please consult the Nelson Mandela Foundation website for more information on initiatives undertaken in South Africa and across the world, should you wish to contribute to existing initiatives or make a more meaningful impact on society.  

Commemorating Nelson Mandela Day is not only a celebration of the man but of his vision and purpose in life. It is a calling to strive for a higher self, a self that is emphatic, compassionate, inspirational, and willing to make the world a better place. So, let’s be motivated by the essence of Mandela Day to take action, inspire change, and make every day Mandela Day. There is no time better time to act than now!

I leave you with one of his most inspirational quotes, “I would venture to say that there is something inherently good in all human beings, deriving from among other things, the attribute of social consciousness that we all possess”. The power to make a difference lies in your hands.

With best regards

Ambassador RS Molekane

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