First Mandela Day since icon’s death


South Africans cleaned schools, planted vegetables and adopted penguins on Friday to celebrate “Mandela Day” for the first time since the death of the iconic leader on what would have been his 96th birthday.

People around the world volunteered 67 minutes of their time for the common good to mark former president Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of activism for South Africa’s freedom.

Images of people doing good deeds or famous quotes of the late revered peacemaker were posted on social media and news outlets, remembering the long life of the anti-apartheid hero.

Search engine Google dedicated its daily doodle — the changing logo on its homepage — to Mandela with a drawing of the smiling statesman and a cartoon of his life.

Mandela died on December 5 last year aged 95 after a lengthy illness. Tens of thousands of mourners, including world leaders, attended memorial services leading up to his funeral.

The call to do good deeds in his name on July 18 started in Johannesburg and New York in 2009. Supported by the United Nations, it has become a global event and expanded to 126 countries this year.

For the first Mandela Day since his death, events were planned in Paris, New York, Dallas, London, Edinburgh and Glasgow, while a film portraying his life was to premiere in China.

Newspapers weighed in with suggestions to volunteer in orphanages, donate books to schools or blankets to the homeless — or even to sterilise stray cats.

President Jacob Zuma called on South Africans to bring out their brooms and mops and help spruce up their country.

“In this way, we will be promoting working together to build our beautiful country, which is what Madiba taught us as South Africans,” he said, using a respectful tribal name to refer to the country’s first black president.

Zuma himself helped to clean a school in Mvezo in the Eastern Cape, the village where Mandela was born on July 18, 1918. He was then due to unveil a statue of the liberation hero.

“Be sure he’s smiling”

Government officials, opposition politicians and trade unionists also set aside an hour to volunteer — many with an eye on the free publicity.

Another theme for this year is food security in a nation where a quarter of the population goes hungry.

Mandela’s widow Graca Machel helped to pack food at an initiative to feed hungry children.

“Wherever Madiba is today, you can be sure he’s smiling,” Machel was quoted as saying by local newspaper The Star.

Citizen activist group LeadSA encouraged South Africans to plant vegetable gardens and donate food to feeding schemes “in the true spirit of active citizenship”.

And in a country notorious for high crime rates, one person even offered a 67-minute course in self-defence.

Events elsewhere in the world included a ceremony in Mandela’s memory in Glasgow, with his granddaughter Tukwini as guest of honour, a jazz show in Edinburgh and a dance performance in the Belgian city of Liege.

Mandela spent 27 years in prison during his struggle against white-minority rule, but forgave his former oppressors when the apartheid regime ended with free elections in 1994.

His actions to reconcile his country’s divided people earned him global respect and the Nobel Peace Prize.

“His extraordinary compassion after 27 years in prison showed that human rights and equality are stronger than discrimination and hate,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this week.

Source: Prothom Alo

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