On July 18, former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela turned 94 years old.
The day is known as International Nelson Mandela day and people are encouraged to spend 67 minutes of their day doing something good. Mandela spent 67 years of his life fighting for social justice.
There has always been a lot of hype about Nelson Mandela – more so in South Africa than anywhere else. Sometimes you get people jumping on the bandwagon trying to make money or corporate trying to get publicity on Mandela’s day.
Houses for the poor
I will admit I was sceptical about the whole idea of communities spending 67 minutes of their time doing something good in the community.
The idea is great on paper but I had never actually seen it being done – more importantly I had never spoken to anyone who had benefited from the 67 minutes initiative.
I went to Orange Farm, a poor township community outside Johannesburg, not sure what I would find. I knew people were being asked to spend time building houses for the poor, but the scale of the project there was amazing.
It’s a poor township where most people live in shacks – tiny makeshift homes made mostly from corrugated iron sheet.
On every corner there was a home being built – nothing fancy – just a two bedroom simple home.
Mother of three
Fikile Mashinini was sitting at the door of her new home. She is the one wearing a black and blue jersey on the right in the picture. She is with her youngest son who is three years old and her neighbour. She has already started moving in to her new home.
“I used to live in a shack around the corner. It was small, cold and not a good place to bring up my children, when it rains it leaks and in winter it is cold. The place is always dirty and we were always getting sick,” she said.
She has never owned a home of her own before.
Mandela will always be remembered for his work in trying to promote reconciliation and economic empowerment of the black majority.
But many poor South Africans, particularly the black majority feel true racial integration and economic freedom hasn’t yet been achieved 18 years after the end of apartheid.
Mandela still manages to unite people like her, regardless of race and class. What I saw on Mandela day gave me hope that it is possible to keep Madiba’s legacy alive – by doing something small to help your neighbour.