Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and it was with these words in mind, that today (Friday 18 July 2014) South African Tourism celebrated the statesman’s birthday and Nelson Mandela International Day by reading to youngsters and taking them on an exciting historical tour to a site connected to the South African icon.
The day kicked off with South African Tourism and local personalities that include Isidingo actresses Keketso Semoko and Kgomotso Christopher, Muvhango’s Rami Chuene and former model Sonia Booth who spent time with children from the Abangani Enkosini Children’s home in Alexandra Township which provides shelter, care and support to orphans and vulnerable children. While this may have been the first Mandela Day without the statesman who passed away last year on December 5, the mood throughout the country was nothing but celebratory as people served their 67 minutes of making a difference in honour of Madiba’s legacy. In Alex, dancing, singing and storytelling formed part of the day’s activities as the children basked in the attention of their favourite TV stars who read multi-lingual story books they’ve donated to the children’s home.
An overwhelmed Portia “Mama Portia” Mongake, who established the Abangani eNkosini Children’s home 14 years ago, tearfully expressed her surprise and delight at being the focus of South African Tourism and celebrities. “The children and I did not expect to see such amazing work today. It’s always great to know that after all the struggles that these children have been through, there are so many people who care enough to take time to do such a simple thing as reading for them. That’s when you know that Nelson Mandela was an incredible man to inspire people to do great work. We hope to see such support continue even after this day,” she says.
A group of 10 underprivileged teenagers were also treated to a tour of the historical Liliesleaf farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg where 19 members of the liberation movement were arrested in a dramatic police raid on 11 July 1963 that subsequently led to the Rivonia Trial. The guided tour is part of the Gauteng leg of “Madiba’s Journey” – a recently launched interactive map that features places in South Africa inspired by Madiba’s life. The map, launched in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, gives details of 27 sites of historical interest in the life of Madiba around the country.
“One of Nelson Mandela’s first actions on becoming President of the newly democratic South Africa in 1994 was to establish the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. He committed one third of his Presidential salary for five years to ensure the continuation of the Fund as his legacy for children,” says the Chief Executive Officer, Thulani Nzima. “It is for this reason that we chose to dedicate his birthday to the development and well-being of children, and to keep his memory alive by sharing with them the experiences of this great man by taking them on a journey he walked, which includes Liliesleaf as part of the mission we’ve taken to share his legacy.”
Nzima also adds that while the Mandela Day may have been declared by the United Nations as an international day dedicated to helping those less privileged, South African Tourism aims to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela beyond this day. “Helping others should be a lifestyle that South Africa and the rest of the world should adopt,” says Nzima.
One of Mama Portia’s charges, a 15-year-old Hlamalani Florence Mbiza who has lived at the children’s home for seven years ever since her mother lost her job, shared her Mandela Day experience saying, “Today we were taken to a place where we learnt some really important lessons,” she said. “At school, we’re taught about Nelson Mandela but after touring Lilieslief, we’ve learnt there’s so much more to understand about him and the liberation movement. But most importantly, we learnt about determination, hard work and forgiveness.”
After the tour, Isindingo’s Keketso described her Mandela Day experience as ‘humbling’. “It was special to continue Nelson Mandela’s legacy of encouraging literacy. It was also important for the children to visit Lilieslief where they got to experience the sacrifices and labour that the liberation movement went through so they can enjoy their freedom today. Even though Madiba’s no longer with us, today the children got to understand the man who was prepared to make many sacrifices for humanity, not just for South Africa.”
About The Nelson Mandela Interactive Tourism Map:
South African Tourism in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation launched the Madiba Inspired Tourist Attraction, an interactive map that shows Nelson Mandela’s 95-year life journey throughout South Africa. The map takes tourists through a timeline tour of Madiba’s life, from his birth in 1918 in the tiny Eastern Cape village of Qunu to his passing in 2013 in Johannesburg. http://mandela.southafrica.net/map/overview.