15 July 2011

South Africa: World Icon Mandela's Birthday Sparks Inspiring Day of Volunteer Work

Photo: http://www.nelsonmandela.org/
Nelson Mandela watches with other family as great-granddaughter Zamakhosi Obiri & grandson Mbuso Mandela look at his cake in Qunu, South Africa on his 93rd birthday.

Durban — Nelson Mandela International Day ("Mandela Day") was launched in 2009 on Nelson Mandela's birthday, 18 July, and declared an international day by the United Nations in November 2009. Mandela Day was inspired by a call made by this world icon for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world's social injustices. Mandela turns 93 years of age on 18 July.

Every year on the birthday of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, South Africans are called to contribute 67 minutes of community service – a reference to the 67 years Mandela spent making the world a better place. The campaign is designed to honour Madiba's legacy of devotion and service to others by showing our commitment to making the world a better place as we harness collective energy to build our communities. It's a heartfelt call to action for South Africans to take the first small steps to follow in his footsteps.
With this day fast approaching, many organisations, companies, NGOs and individuals have come up with activities which they would like to do on this day to commemorate Mandela Day with a commitment to volunteer work. The idea is that a global movement for positive change begins with small actions, so each person who responds to this call should decide for themselves what they would like to do, and then do this community work as a tribute to Nelson Mandela.

As Mandela himself has stated, "it's in our hands" to create a better world and people can take inspiration from his example to take responsibility for ourselves and to action their responsibility to others.

Mandela Day will be celebrated in South Africa while petrol station tanks began to empty due to the ongoing strikes of workers affiliated to the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood, and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu). The strike started to have an impact on the motorists who were battling to find petrol, while the unions vowed not to end the strike until their demands are met for a wage increase.

The annual Ubuntu gala dinner will be held on the Mandela's birthday in Cape Town, as an ongoing celebration for the icon of Ubuntu, the African notion of giving to others. The event pays tribute to this international icon whose magnanimous spirit is an inspiration to the world.

Nelson Mandela loved sports and he took up boxing during his "struggle days". He also supported South African rugby, helping the country's Springbok team to win the World Cup in 2007, an event that was chronicled in the recent film, Invictus.

As for boxing, Mandela once admitted that although he had boxed, he had neither enough power to compensate for his lack of speed nor enough speed to make up for his lack of power. Always eminently quotable, this was his analysis of his lack of success in the ring: "I was never an outstanding boxer because I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it."

Nelson Mandela once said that sports had the power "to change the world to inspire the young ones and to unite people". The African continent seems to have taken Mandela at his word, as the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) Africa Senior Cup will be staged 18-19 July in the city of Rabat, immediately following the Hasan II Morocco Open, the twelfth ITTF Pro Tour tournament, as the world celebrates Mandela Day.

Politicians and public figures were keen to offer comments on Mandela's life and work.

"Politically a person who had done an incredible amount of reading in prison and understood South Africa, someone who was also overwhelmed by the notion that he could never break up South Africa, that we had to keep it together, whatever the cost," noted former Speaker of Parliament Dr Frene Ginwala.  "Mandela also had a kind of Gandhian belief that if what you were doing what was right, the right thing would happen. "

Local politicians also vowed to do their 67 minutes of volunteer work and many contributed their views on Mandela's ability to inspire others. Zama Hlongwana, who works at Inanda parliamentary constituency in Durban recalled Mandela's visit to his area for the very first democratic elections after his release from 27 years in prison.
"I remember Mandela when he was in Inanda to cast his first ballot in 1994 at Ohlange High School," said Hlongwana, who noted that Mandela appreciated the fact that this school was established by Dr JL Dube, the founder of Mandela's party, then known as the African National Native Congress.

Mandela will forever be remembered for one of his most positive statements. "I am fundamentally an optimist," confessed the world icon. "Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair."

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