In 2009, United Nations General Assembly declared 18th of July as annual International Nelson Mandela Day. The Day recognizes and honor Mandela’s commitment to building a democratic society that is united, non-racial and prosperous. It also honors his contributions towards the reconstruction and development of South Africa and building a better Africa and a better World. The annually celebrated Mandela Day kicked off across South Africa on Tuesday with locals and immigrants here pursuing a good goal and cause to honor what would have been South Africa’s Nelson Mandela’s 99th birthday.
The Nelson Mandela International Day must be used to unify South Africans and everyone who lives in South Africa, several South Africans and immigrants in Johannesburg said on Tuesday.
The day is an opportunity to deal with issues of inequity and xenophobia which are derailing social cohesion and economic development of South Africa, they said.
“This is an important day for South Africans, it’s a crucial day to Africa as a continent too. The day brings pride to Africa,” said Johannes Mutero, a Zimbabwean who was among a group of South Africans and immigrants who went about donating food parcels to the needy in South Africa’s Rosettenville suburbs.
Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, was born 18 July 1918.
“It’s a day a man whose footprint can not be blown away by death was born. It’s a day for us to celebrate and do what he should have done and encouraged us to do if he was here today with us,” said 12-year-old Ayibongwe Nxumalo, who was also among the group..
Mandela had developed himself and his leadership role above the boundaries of South Africa. He was an African leader and a global icon, Mutero said. He recommended that Mandela Day be used to bring about unity in South Africa and across Africa.
Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999. He was the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to life in prison. He served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island in Cape Town.
Upon his release Mandela preached and installed reconciliation in South Africa. His political acumen united a country once torn by racial and tribal enmity.
“People across the globe were mesmerized by his wisdom, humility, patriotism and his capacity to forgive. Mandale’s ability to unity South Africans, Africans and the global citizen is something that makes us to continue to celebrate his life,” said Anthony Bophelo, a young South African who was among citizens at Johannesburg’s Sandton to watch a six-meter statue of Nelson Mandela.
Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela led the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, in the negotiations that led to multi-racial democracy in 1994. As president from 1994 to 1999, he gave priority to reconciliation.
When Mandela took over office in 1994 he made it clear that in South Africa the black and white people are equal, and they all enjoy the same constitutional privileges.
Mandela, popularly known as Madiba was politically active for 67 years, and on Mandela Day people all over the world, in the workplace, at home and in schools, will be called upon to spend at least 67 minutes of their time doing something useful within their communities, especially among the less fortunate.
Mandela who was the commander of the Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) (translated Spear of the Nation), ANC military wing, hated poverty and his wish is to see children living in happiness and able to advance their ambitions for a better world.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead,” Mandela once said.