Mandela’s birthday inspires good deeds

Young South Africans to honour former president’s legacy by helping less fortunate

Well-wishers’ messages yesterday adorn  the sign outside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital  in Pretoria, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela is being treated for a recurring lung infection. Photograph:  Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Well-wishers’ messages yesterday adorn the sign outside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela is being treated for a recurring lung infection. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Thu, Jul 18, 2013, 01:00

An unprecedented number of young South Africans plan to donate their time to worthy causes as part of Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday celebrations today.

Although the Nobel Peace Prize winner remains in a Pretoria hospital, where he is on life support following the deterioration of his health due to a recurring lung infection, South Africans appear determined to celebrate.

Mr Mandela’s birthday, July 18th, has become the rallying point for Mandela Day, a United Nations-backed global campaign that celebrates the idea that individuals can change the world through good deeds and nation-building activities. Mandela Day was launched in 2009.

Goodwill

Such is the level of goodwill towards the ailing Mr Mandela that hundreds of thousands of South Africans intend honouring his legacy by spending at least 67 minutes of their day helping those less fortunate than themselves.

A survey released yesterday by South African consumer insight company Pondering Panda revealed that 89 per cent of its 16,046 respondents said they would donate their time to good causes today.

“It shows that among South Africa’s youth, Mandela Day is achieving its goal of encouraging people to take action, and in doing so, inspire change,” spokeswoman Shirley Wakefield said.

She added that of those surveyed, 65 per cent said they had taken part in Mandela Day before, while 33 per cent had not, which showed there was a surge in participation levels this year.

Activities range from motor biking across the country for charities and painting rundown orphanages to building libraries, handing out school uniforms, textbooks and stationary.

Since being admitted to hospital on June 8th last, Mr Mandela’s health has deteriorated dramatically. Initially he was said to be in a serious condition, but this was later changed to critical, but stable.

Thousands of people are expected to make the trip to the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria to mark Mr Mandela’s birthday. Shrines have begun to take shape outside the hospital’s entrances.

South African president Jacob Zuma will spend his 67 minutes giving houses to homeless people around Pretoria under the government’s Danville project. The beneficiaries will include the white residents of the Bethlehem informal settlement.

“In 2009 we declared July 18th the birthday of our beloved former president Nelson Mandela as Mandela Day,” Mr Zuma said in a statement yesterday.

“Let us return Madiba’s sacrifices and contributions through our own efforts to build a better society. Make every day a Mandela day.”

A family dispute between the Mandela clan over the reburial of three of Mr Mandela’s children has overshadowed the lead-up to the birthday celebrations.