Nelson Mandela holds a special place in the heart of every South African and this month we have an opportunity to express our adoration for our late icon through our actions towards others.
We remember Madiba as leader who dedicated his life to the service of others and through his ideals of non-racialism, non-sexism, justice and equality for all he changed the course of our nation.
He was instrumental in the peaceful negotiations that brought an end to apartheid and delivered our country from the brink of a civil war.
As the country’s first democratically elected black president he helped define our national identity and entrench reconciliation, freedom and democracy as its foundation.
Former President Mandela was a pillar of strength as we flourished into a multiparty democracy which set us on a course to become the great nation we envisioned in 1994.
His profound message of living a life that impacts positively on others, continues to resonate in our society and inspires us to be better human beings.
“Our human compassion binds us, the one to the other, not in pity or patronisingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future,” he said.
In the celebration of Nelson Mandela Month we have an opportunity to expand on his legacy by making a tangible difference in the lives of others.
We each have the potential to make an impact on the lives of those around us and contribute meaningfully to the type of society we set out to build at the start of our democracy.
Government encourages all to be part of Nelson Mandela Month celebrations this month under the theme: “Make everyday a Mandela Day: Donating 67 minutes of our time to help those in need.”
We can honour Madiba by doing something that will make a difference in the lives of our fellow countrymen and women, such as giving time to a charitable cause or serving others.
This can be simple acts such as collecting books for children at the local nursery school or magazines for an old age home. You can encourage your friends to put together food parcels for someone who has fallen on hard times or collect blankets for the homeless to get them through the cold winter months.
There are no set rules – any act of kindness that affects someone else’s life positively and epitomises the values that Nelson Mandela instilled in us will do.
One area of special importance for the father of our nation was how we treat each other. He inspired us to transcend class, race and gender and come together as one nation.
This month let us reach out to each other and build greater social cohesion.
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion,” said former president Mandela in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. “People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Our social cohesion is informed by, and rooted within our Constitution which shows how we can unite and work towards a common goal.
It was under Madiba’s presidency that the country successfully negotiated and adopted a new Constitution in 1996. The Constitution promotes a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous society based on justice, equality, the rule of law and human rights for all.
We must all make it our duty to translate our Constitutional guarantees into reality for all to enjoy.
While there are challenges and we may stumble at times, working together we can move South Africa forward to become the truly united and prosperous nation.
It was under the leadership of Nelson Mandela that we pledged that never again shall one person be oppressed by another. We must pursue the dreams and aspirations of Madiba as we continue to respect basic human rights and remain committed to the rule of law.
Government in its Medium-Term Strategic Framework 2014-2019 identified social cohesion and nation-building as one of its priorities. It is also one of the priorities outlined in the National Development Plan which describes a nation that is more conscious of commonalities than its differences.
In the spirit of Madiba’s legacy, let us also work together to develop a cohesive society by promoting his ideals of non-racialism, non-sexism, justice and equality for all.
We all have the responsibility to promote these ideal so that the next generation will be empowered to take them forward. As we take time to honour the life of Nelson Mandela let us work to bring a lasting change to our society and together move South Africa forward.