Mandela Day – the 18th of July is International Nelson Mandela Day. It’s a day to celebrate the life of a South African icon; Nelson Mandela. Mandela did so much for South Africa, from fighting against the Apartheid system to acting as president of our country. We use this day to honour his memory and his actions by giving back to the community.
Mandela was a peace maker and a human rights lawyer who campaigned for the equal treatment of all South Africans. This day, his birthday, is when we honour his legacy and everything that he has done for us.
The first Mandela Day was celebrated in 2008, on his 90th Birthday. In 2009 the United Nations declared June 18th International Nelson Mandela Day, making it a day that the entire world can come together and work to make the world a better place for their fellow man. This was in recognition of Mandela’s humanitarian efforts and contribution to the struggle for democracy as well as to an international culture of peace.
On the 18th of July, 1918, Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the Transkei. He was the son of the councillor to the acting King of the time, but when he was 12 years old, his father passed away. Mandela’s published autobiography states that his father passed when he was 9 years old, though the original manuscript cites the year as being 1930, when he would have been 12 years old.
As a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place, he attended primary school in Qunu, where he was given the name Nelson by his teacher in the practice of the time of giving African children ‘Christian’ names. His given name, Rolihlahla, translates to troublemaker. Which certainly held true for his future, as he helped to create a democratic system of government for South Africa.
Jongintaba was the regent of the Thembu people, and Rolihlahla was given the same responsibilities as his own two children and taught English, Xhosa and Geography. It was at this time that he developed a keen interest in African history which he learnt from his Elders. He admired the way that his ancestors fought during the wars of resistance and he hoped that one day he would be able to contribute to his people’s struggle for freedom.
After matriculating from Healdtown, he went on to study a Bachelor of Arts at Fort Hare, but was expelled for joining in a student protest before he could complete his degree. He had resigned from his position as president of the student council in order to side with the majority of the students and the principle of the school had given him the opportunity to come back – provided that he returned to serve on the Student Representative Council.
Jongintaba was furious at him for this, and threatened to marry him off if he didn’t go back to Fort Hare. As a result, he and his adopted brother Justice ran away to Johannesburg in 1941. There he became a mine security officer before meeting Walter Sisulu, another struggle hero who was working as an estate agent. After meeting Lazer Sidlesky, Mandela then went on to do his articles for his firm, Witkin, Eidelman and Sidelsky. His BA was completed through the University of South Africa and he went back to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943.
It was around this time, 1942, that Mandela began to become very heavily involved in politics, joining the African National Congress in, and helping to form the ANC Youth League, an organisation that is still active to this day in 1944.
In 1952, after he had risen through the ranks of the ANC Youth League, he was appointed National Volunteer in Chief of the Defiance Campaign. The aim of this campaign was to protest 6 unjust Apartheid laws through civil disobedience. Mandela and 19 others were sentenced to 9 months of hard labour for their part in these protests after being charged under the Suppression of Communism Act.
1952 was also the year that Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo established Tambo & Mandela, the first black law firm in South Africa. With a two year diploma and his BA, Mandela was allowed to practice law. This was also the year that he was banned for the first time.
On the 5th of December 1955 he was arrested in a national sweep which resulted in 150 arrests. This resulted in the 1956 Treason Trial, which was a marathon trail that resulted in the last 28 people on trial, Mandela included, being acquitted on the 29th of March 1961.
In June he helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation), a militant organisation that had an explosive launch in December of the same year.
In January 1962 Mandela assumed the name David Motsamayi and secretly left South Africa using an Ethopian passport. He travelled across Africa, receiving military training while he was in Morocco and Ethopia, and gained support for his struggle when he visited England. In July of the same year he returned to South Africa and was arrested outside Howick on the 5th of August in a routine police roadblock. He was charged with leaving the country without a permit to do so and organising a workers’ strike and sentenced to five years imprisonment.
In 1963 ten of his fellows were arrested in a police raid on a secret hideout in Liliesleaf, Rivonia.
Mandela and 7 fellows were then put on trial for sabotage in what has become known as the Rivonia Trials. They were all sentenced to life imprisonment on the 11 of June 1964, and Mandela was transferred from the Pretoria Local Prison to Robben Island to carry out his sentence.
In August of 1988 he was taken to hospital and diagnosed with tuberculosis. He served the last 14 months of his sentence at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl and was released from there on Sunday the 11th of February in 1990. It’s estimated that during his incarceration Mandela rejected three or more offers of a conditional release, and was released 9 days after the ANC was unbanned and 4 months after his fellows from the Rivonia Trials.
After his release, Mandela threw himself into peace talks and discussions of ending white minority rule. The ANC voted him president of the organisation, to replace his friend Oliver Tambo, who was very ill. That was in 1991. In 1993 he and the then President FW De Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
On the 27th of April, 1994 South Africa held the first free and fair elections in the country, and Nelson Mandela voted for the first time. Today that day is celebrated in South Africa as Freedom Day. On the 10th of May he was inaugurated as the first black President of South Africa.
Madiba is the name of the clan that he was born into and a name used fondly by the nation that he fought to free. We celebrate this day so that we can have a way to commemorate the wonderful work that he did throughout his life. Mandela became politically active in his twenties and continued to work for South Africa. He is a man who dedicated his life to public service and the service of the South African people.
He created the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in 1995, as well as the Mandela Foundation and the Mandela Rhodes Fund. He worked hard to give back to the community long after he left the office. He was a mediator in the 2000 conflict in Burundi, and organised the 2003 46664 concert in Green Point Stadium to raise funds for his charities and international AIDs charities. Many international artists performed at the concert, which was named after Mandela’s prison number; 466/64. He even openly spoke about how his son Makgatho had died because of AIDs, in an attempt to destigmatise the illness.
Mandela continued to work towards a more peaceful world even though he was deliberately staying out of the public eye, until his failing health stopped him in 2011. He sadly passed on the 5th of December 2013.
Mandela Day 67 Minutes
67 Minutes is all that Nelson Mandela Day asks of us. One minute of our time for every year that Mandela dedicated to public service. In total it comes to just over an hour, a lunch break. But that one hour can make a huge difference to the community that you live in. Your time is a very valuable resource. Time is valuable and more than just your time, you’re donating yourself. For those 67 minutes you can help people or animals in need, and you can give to the community something that they might not have had before.
These 67 minutes are meant to be a bite sized contribution to your community that may inspire you to carry on and do bigger and better things in future. Just like Mandela did. There are still things to be done in every community. It was Nelson Mandela’s dream to have a world where everyone could live as equals.
As he said in his Speech from the Dock on the 20th of April 1964;
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
What he also said, at his 80th Birthday celebration in Hyde Park, and the words that inspired this special day; “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”
We can all make a difference, and an entire country taking just over an hour to make a difference to their communities is a huge impact. 67 minutes from every South African isn’t a lot to ask, but what you end up giving is so much more.
Why do We Celebrate Mandela Day
So why do we celebrate Mandela Day? We celebrate to honour a man who fought for our country. Mandela Day is a way to help our communities. It’s a day to raise awareness for causes that need help. It’s also a day, as decreed by the UN, to promote humane conditions for inmates in prisons, and how valuable it is for prisoners to be a continuous part of society while they are incarcerated.
That decision lead to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (A/70/490). These are often called the Mandela Rules. This one man had such a profound effect, not only on the country that he fought for, but the whole world. And you can too. You can honour his legacy by celebrating Mandela Day.
Things to Do for Mandela Day
Mandela Day is on the 18th of July 2017 (and every year subsequent to that). This year, that means that it’s on a Tuesday. For many South Africans that means work. And that can make it difficult to donate your time to charity.
What you can do is organise with your employer to donate your time collectively, as an office. Or give your time before or after work, during your lunch break.
Time is a precious resource and that’s why it’s so important to give it. By giving your time you’re involving yourself personally in helping South Africa.
- You can collect refuse in your area and help the environment.
- You can volunteer at a homeless shelter and help the less fortunate in your community.
- You can visit your local animal shelter and help the animals there.
You can make every day a Mandela Day and help to continue his legacy in South Africa and around the world by making it a better place one little bit at a time. Sometimes a task can seem daunting or impossible. Sometimes you might not think that you can make a difference in the grand scheme of things.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is proof of his own words:
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” This day allows you to break down a task that might be difficult for an individual to accomplish alone and get the whole nation, even the whole world involved in. This is the importance of Mandela Day.
At Brand Innovation, we are proud to remember the great man, Nelson Mandela. May his legacy live on forever in South Africa and the world.
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