President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela [July 1991]

Official Visits

Nelson Mandela is one of the most celebrated and respected statesmen in the world. He is renowned for his lifelong fight against apartheid in his homeland South Africa and his defence of democracy and justice for all.

Even before his ascension to the presidency of South Africa, Mandela’s life was marked by struggle including a 27 year prison sentence.

Mandela’s Early Days

Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Mvezo, a village near Mthatha in the Transkei, on July 18, 1918, to Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Henry Mgadla Mandela. Rolihlahla literally means “pulling the branch of a tree”.

Mandela’s father was the principal councillor to the Acting Paramount Chief of the Thembu. After his father’s death in 1927, the young Rolihlahla became the ward of Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the Paramount Chief, to be groomed to assume high office.

Hearing the elder’s stories of his ancestor’s valour during the wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.

Mandela vs. Apartheid

The crux of Mandela’s life and struggle was apartheid. Apartheid was South Africa’s legalized system of racial discrimination. As an official policy it was introduced by the National Party in 1948. The government segregated education, medical care, beaches, and other public services, and provided black people with services inferior to those granted to white people.

The injustice meted out to the black population spurred Mandela to action. His first act of defiance was the Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws in 1952. As part of the Africa National Congress top brass, Mandela organized a mass civil disobedience campaign in response to apartheid. Mandela and 19 others were arrested and charged as a result. Brought to trial, he was convicted of contravening the Suppression of Communism Act and given a suspended prison sentence, but he was also prohibited from attending rallies and confined to Johannesburg for six months.

Mandela, although an opponent to apartheid, could not escape its influences. After returning from visits abroad in 1962 he was arrested for travelling out of South Africa under a false name and was sentenced to five years in jail. While serving his sentence additional charges of sabotage were filed against him. He was accused of 221 acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid system. The trial became known as the Rivonia Trial as 19 other ANC leaders were found on a farm in Rivonia that was used as a safe house by the ANC. Mandela was convicted and received a life sentence.

After his 1990 release, Mandela continued to devote his life to the struggle. In 1993 Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with then President of South Africa F.W. de Klerk for their work toward dismantling apartheid. Their efforts led to the staging of South Africa’s first democratically held elections and South Africa’s first black President, Nelson Mandela.

Mandela in Jamaica

When Mandela visited Jamaica with his former wife Winnie Mandela on July 24, 1991, hordes of supportive Jamaicans flooded Kingston’s city streets in an effort to glimpse the man as he made the diplomatic rounds. Hundreds waited for him for hours along the streets while he had lunch at Vale Royal, meanwhile thousands more anticipated his arrival at the National Stadium.

At a special reception at the Oceana Hotel Ballroom there was an emotional outpouring that commenced with Lorna Goodison’s delivery of her poem ‘Bedspread’ and ended with several humble Jamaicans trying to get personnel to hand the Mandela’s gifts and crafts made in their honour. Then Minister of Labour, Welfare and Sports, the Hon. Portia Simpson Miller had moderated the historic occasion.

In the midst of the celebration, Mandela used the occasion to emphasise the need to undo the damage of apartheid by locking South Africa out of international sport until all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, were allowed the same opportunity to achieve their full potential.

Mandela’s Advocacy

Years after leaving the presidency, Mandela continued to be an active advocate for a variety of social causes and organizations. In addition to taking a stand against racial and social injustice, Mandela’s focus extended to abuse, the welfare of vulnerable women and children, HIV/AIDS, poverty, disaster relief, education, the preservation of the family unit, human rights and hunger.

What is Nelson Mandela International Day?

Nelson Mandela International Day, also known as Mandela Day, is held on July 18th. It is a day dedicated to Nelson Mandela’s life work and that of his charitable organizations to ensure that his legacy of humanitarianism continues.

Mandela Day was officially adopted by the United Nations as “Nelson Mandela International Day” on November 10, 2009, and the day formally launched on March 28th, 2011.

It is now celebrated around the globe as a day of humanitarian action in celebration of Mr. Mandela’s life and legacy.

Who is Nelson Mandela?

Nelson Mandela is one of the most celebrated and respected statesmen in the world. He is renowned for his lifelong fight against apartheid in his homeland South Africa and his defence of democracy and justice for all.

How is Mandela Day commemorated?

Mandela gave 67 years of his life to fighting for the rights of humanity. On Mandela Day, individuals are asked to give 67 minutes of their time to serving others, whether it’s supporting a charity or serving your local community.

Mandela Day also celebrates a campaign known as “46664”, in reference to Nelson Mandela’s Robben Island prison number. The campaign was originally launched to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. However, its focus expanded to broader humanitarian work.

The theme for Mandela Day 2013 is ‘Take Action, Inspire Change, and make every day a Mandela Day’.

Mandela Day in Jamaica

In 2012, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller launched the Nelson Mandela International Day in Jamaica. On the day, many children benefited from the 67 minutes of humanitarian action by Jamaican organisations and individuals.

This year, the South African High Commission has again partnered with the Ministry of Youth and Culture and the Office of the Childrens’ Advocate to celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day.

For Mandela Day 2013, the 67 minutes of service will focus on children in rural areas and children’s homes.

To participate, organizations are requested to give 67 minutes of service to children.

As the people of the world celebrate Nelson Mandela, he continues to be a beacon for the global community and for all who work for democracy, injustice and reconciliation.

Let us make every day a Mandela Day.

“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.” – Nelson Mandela

Jamaicans Encouraged to Focus on Children for Mandela Day

Jamaicans are being encouraged to join in the global call for humanitarian action by spending 67 minutes of their time serving others, specifically children, come Thursday, July 18 – Nelson Mandela International Day.

The former President of South Africa gave 67 years of his life to fighting for the rights of humanity, and the day is dedicated to his life and work and that of his charitable organizations, and to ensure that his legacy continues.

Being celebrated under the theme: ‘Take Action, Inspire Change, and make every day a Mandela Day’, the event is also a global call to action for people to recognise their ability to have a positive effect on others around them, whether through supporting a charity or serving their local community.

South Africa’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Mathu Joyini, tells JIS News that Nelson Mandela International Day, which was adopted by the United Nations in 2009 and formally launched in 2011, is celebrated across the world on the birthday of the freedom fighter.

“So on that day, people across the globe are asked to do something good for the other…People are being asked to spend only 67 minutes of their time on the 18th of July to find something that they can do which is of benefit or is of service to the other. All of us can surely find 67 minutes to do something good for the other,” she asserts.

The High Commissioner further notes that essentially, the day is about celebrating Mr. Mandela’s birthday in a way that speaks to the values he upholds. These values include democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation and respect.

“Other than principles of social justice…he is also about caring for children and caring for others, and society really living up to, and doing what they are supposed to do for their citizens. So, it’s really celebrating those values and doing something that speaks to those values,” she explains.

While persons are free to lend a hand to whomever they please, it is being suggested that in Jamaica, the focus be placed on the nation’s children, in keeping with Mr. Mandela’s passion for the welfare of children.

According to Mr. Mandela in a 1997 quote; “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.”

The High Commissioner tells JIS News that, “nothing will please him (Mr. Mandela) more than those 67 minutes being spent in service of the children in Jamaica and that’s how we started it last year. So, we ask individuals, organizations, to just do something for the children for 67 minutes.”

Ms. Joyini points out that Mr. Mandela usually celebrates his birthday with children. “So, he’ll (normally) be in his homestead in Qunu and they’ll bus children from all over the area to come and celebrate his birthday with him,” she notes.

As a member State of the United Nations, Jamaica already supports the day, but it was formally launched in  the country last year, “so that all Jamaicans can celebrate the day,” the High Commissioner states.

Ms. Joyini shares that when the day was launched last year, she was overwhelmed by the reception of the idea itself, “and it became very clear to me fairly quickly that it had to do with the man himself.”

She adds that she was particularly pleased with the level of support from corporate Jamaica, noting that close to 20 corporations came forward to participate in various activities for children.

The High Commissioner expresses her gratitude to Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who was the patron of the first Nelson Mandela Day in Jamaica.

“She formally launched it in Jamaica, which was quite special, and this year we are partnering with Minister (of Youth and Culture), Hon. Lisa Hanna, specifically because we are focusing on rural children and children that are in homes,” she explains.

Mr. Mandela, whose life has been an inspiration for South Africans and many across the world, was born on July 18, 1918, in a small village in the Transkei province of Eastern South Africa.  Often described as “the father of the nation,” he is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name of Madiba or as Tata, meaning Father.

Seen as a revolutionary, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is known worldwide for his fight against a system of racial oppression in which the majority of South Africans were disenfranchised. This was referred to as apartheid, which existed in South Africa from as early as 1910.

Mr. Mandela was jailed in 1964 for leading the liberation movement against apartheid and for his stance on human rights to live in freedom. He served 26 years in prison.

Following an international campaign lobbying for his release, and after successful negotiations with the white government, led at the time by Frederik Willem de Klerk, Mr. Mandela was released from prison in 1990.

His release would mark a major turning point in South Africa’s history. This development fed political debates in the country and contributed to South Africa’s transition towards a multi-racial democracy.

After his release, Mr. Mandela continued addressing racial issues in his country and supported reconciliation initiatives. His efforts resulted in him being elected as South Africa’s President in 1994, serving for a single term until 1999.

He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative, multiracial election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.

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