Monday 20 June saw the third official launch of Mandela International Day, which takes place annually on July 18, Mr Nelson Mandela’s birthday. The launch, which was held at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, saw Foundation Trustee Tokyo Sexwale give a keynote address, and words from Foundation Chairman Professor Jakes Gerwel, amongst others.
Proceedings began with a brief introduction from CEO of the NMF, Achmat Dangor. He reminded guests of the importance of Mandela Day, saying that it was a way in which individuals could make a difference, “so that the responsibility for addressing the world’s ills is passed on to the next generation of leaders”.
We need to embrace ‘the other’ and to honour the human dignity of 'the other'
Dangor then introduced Foundation Trustee Tokyo Sexwale, who addressed the guests. He spoke about the aspects that make Mr Mandela stand out as a leader. He said that he does not necessarily stand apart from other freedom fighters, political prisoners or presidents, but Mr Mandela’s view on reconciliation was the most important feature of his legacy, and the thing that separated him from other political figures.
“The influence of Nelson Mandela is going to start the day we … have accepted reconciliation,” he said. “The day we reconcile as enemies … the influence of Mandela shall be deemed to have spread.” Sexwale praised Mr Mandela’s leadership in guiding the country to democratisation. “To raise the white flag on behalf of your enemy,” he said, was to successfully negotiate peaceful change.
About Mandela Day, Sexwale referred to the words of Mr Mandela himself. “It’s now in our hands. He said that in London ... Most important are these words he left us,” said Sexwale, referring to the plea for the next generations to continue Mr Mandela’s work.
Raymond Louw from the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) emphasised Mr Mandela’s firm belief in media freedom, which was representative of his wish for equality in all spheres of public life. “We are here to celebrate Nelson Mandela making the world a better place,” he said. “He made a great contribution to media freedom.” Louw said that Mr Mandela was a champion of the free media.
The third speaker was Mandela Rhodes Scholar Luzelle Yon Lestrade. She said that Mr Mandela meant many different things to many different people. She said that apart from his principled leadership and humility, she admired Mr Mandela’s ability to erode divisions between groups of people and encourage reconciliation. She said this was particularly pertinent in South Africa, which has seen its share of xenophobic violence and aggression.
She said that on Mandela Day people should honour the philosophy of the man himself. “We need to embrace ‘the other’ and to honour the human dignity of ‘the other’,” she said, referring to the tendency to marginalise foreigners. She added that this is not something that should be reserved for one day a year, and can be worked into our daily interactions.
To end proceedings, a video message was played from Professor Jakes Gerwel, chair of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation and the NMF. “A few weeks away from his 93rd birthday, Nelson Mandela is still in demand,” he said. “The Mandela Day campaign … provides the opportunity