Make every day a Mandela day – The legacy lives on
July 18 has marked Nelson Mandela International Day since the 2009 unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. Taking place every year on his day of birth, the day does more than just recognize his contributions and achievements; it aims to build momentum to answering a call that Nelson Mandela made back in 2008. He called for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices, stating “it is in your hands now”. As the Nelson Mandela Foundation puts it, the day is much more than a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy, “it is a global movement to honour his life’s work and act to change the world for the better”.
Under the leadership of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the international day this year put the focus on action but also explained how this is just a starting point to making actions, no matter how small, to change the world every day. Hundreds of great initiatives took place on the day, including one I wish to put forward as a symbol of the immense pluridisciplinary legacy Mandela brought the world. The initiative I am referring to is the “Trek4Mandela” – a group of 38 individuals who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, to raise funds and awareness for the charity Caring4Girls. The trek was led by Sibusiso (Simba) Vilane, a renowned climber and the first black African to conquer the Three Poles Challenge (North Pole, South Pole and Mount Everest) – a real champion who showed through this initiative that we are stronger together if we combine forces. He explained that although he had “a giving heart” he didn’t have a large sum to donate but he could contribute in his own way by using what he called “natural talents” and lead the climbers to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
This is a mere illustration of the inspiration Nelson Mandela has had on the world and individuals. The world of sport for development and peace, for one, knows how much Nelson Mandela contributed in this sphere alone, as one of the first leaders to embrace and promote the power of sport. South Africa, also known as the rainbow nation, through Nelson Mandela and its history have demonstrated that sport can be a uniting force and a critical tool towards nation-building. We have seen this during the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 Soccer World Cup, both of which took place in post-apartheid South Africa.
A current issue that has triggered fierce debate in South Africa is the re-integration of racial quotas in sport teams. Under pressure from the government, the South African Rugby Union (SARU) pledged to include radical racial transformation in the traditionally white sport, which aims to have non-whites making up half of all domestic and national teams by 2019. It is important to bear in mind that 84 per cent of the country’s under-18 population is black African, and only 16 per cent is white, mixed-race and Indian.
The issue being faced is that there are extremely talented kids with complex circumstances limiting their access and development especially due to nutrition and conditioning (access to training and facilities). Coach Murray Ingram of the non-profit Connect Sports Academy spoke recently to point out that the issue is “a question that needs to be answered, not at a Springbok level, but at a grassroots level”.
Madiba’s rainbow nation still faces many challenges, but his legacy lives on and continuously reminds us of the power we have within ourselves to effect change and unite in doing so. In his words: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”.
Let’s make every day a Mandela day.