Happy International Nelson Mandela Day!
(Right: Nelson Mandela, or Madiba as he is affectionately known in SA)
It is impossible to describe how much Mandela means to this country—he is at once a father, a teacher, a political leader, and a preacher. He represents the painful struggle that South Africa endured during apartheid and the hope and promise of its future.
After living in Cape Town, even for a short while, one thing has become clear to me—the country continues to grapple with issues of race and class. In just under an hour you can drive from Camp’s Bay, a wealthy, mostly-white, touristy area where women wear high heels and fake eyelashes, to Khayelitsha, an overwhelmingly black township where tin shacks extend as far as the eye can see. The division in wealth is unnerving. And even that is an oversimplification—tensions in South Africa extend much deeper than skin color.
(Above: From Camp’s Bay to Khayelitsha)
But let’s be realistic: apartheid only officially ended in 1994. According to Wikipedia, the Civil Rights Movement in the US ended in 1968, almost 30 years earlier, and look at how much we still struggle with race. I don’t think anyone, even Mandela, expects such deep-seeded divisions to be resolved in a few years, or even a few decades.
But Mandela does call on all of us to be more compassionate citizens—to look beyond our differences and care for each other. It is the African philosophy of ‘ubuntu’—as Madiba once said, “the profound African sense that we are only human through the humanity of other human beings.”
This sentiment clearly exists in many parts of South African culture—from braais to Backpackers, this place has a distinct sense of community, built upon years of tradition and history. The difficult part is creating communities that extend beyond people that share the same skin color or speak the same language as you do.
As part of Mandela Day, the UN is encouraging people to spend 67 minutes of their day helping others—one minute for each of the 67 years Mandela spent “serving his community, his country, and the world at large.”
Throughout the day, UBA will be tweeting about ways you can use Nelson Mandela Day as an opportunity to help our cause and our children!