Johannesburg - Former president Nelson Mandela remained a symbol of hope to South Africa as it celebrated his birthday on Friday, President Jacob Zuma said.
“As we are here now, South Africans across the lengths and breadths of our country are dedicating at least 67 minutes of their time to engage in a major cleaning up exercise,” Zuma said in Mvezo, Eastern Cape, according to a copy of his speech.
Zuma earlier this week called on South Africans to clean up their cities, towns, villages, and schools to make the South Africa for which Mandela made sacrifices, clean and habitable for all.
“The clean-up campaign is also designed to encourage co-operation and working together to build our country,” he said.
“It is meant to enhance nation building and cohesion, while also promoting environmental awareness and pride in our surroundings no matter how humble they may be.”
Zuma said Mandela had given the country hope in an oasis of hopelessness.
“He indeed belongs to the generation of our forebears, which will remain irreplaceable,” he said.
“Tata represented everything good and noble about us. He was among us, but above us. He was an epitome of unity, selflessness, courage and nobility all together. He may have gone, but he will never be forgotten.”
The thought of Mandela's memory inspired South Africans to be better human beings.
“When we omit doing good, it is at that very moment that we betray the memory of Madiba,” the president said.
“We learn through his life that we can never wait for the right time to do good. Whatever good we can do, no matter how small, we must do it.”
The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) said South Africans needed to work together in remembrance of Mandela's life.
Fedusa and the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA distributed soup packs to families in need at Kalafong hospital in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, on Nelson Mandela Day.
“Though this will not make a world of difference considering the population of our country in terms of poverty and unemployment, we are hoping that this gesture is warmly received,” Fedusa said.
Nelson Mandela Day is celebrated on July 18, Mandela's birthday, when people are encouraged to give 67 minutes of their time and of themselves to help those less fortunate. Mandela spent 67 years of his life working for social justice.
He died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, aged 95, on December 5. He was buried in his childhood village of Qunu on December 15.