Former statesman Thabo Mbeki and Prof Njabulo Ndebele among those present at the launch of the Mandela Presidential centre. Image: Khanyisile Ngcobo/IOL

Johannesburg - Former president Thabo Mbeki has urged citizens to not just focus on marking the the centenary of Nelson Mandela, but also respond in practical ways to the challenge of being his legacy.

Mbeki was speaking at the launch of the refurbishment of Mandela's former official residence in Houghton into a centre of scholarship and reflection for global presidents and business leaders.

The centre will be known as the Mandela Presidential Centre.

Former statesman Thabo Mbeki and Prof Njabulo Ndebele among those present at the launch of the Mandela Presidential centre. Video: Khanyisile Ngcobo/IOL.

Mbeki, speaking at the launch, spoke of the need to not just honour the late statesman's slogan "be the legacy" but to also translate it into practical action.

"It poses a challenge to all of us as South Africans. Because as you've heard, everybody says we must honour the legacy and the slogan is actually 'be the legacy'. Now we have the challenge to translate that into practical action so it doesn't just remain a slogan and it's a big challenge."

"After all these years of democracy, our country still has all these major, major problems. I think to be the legacy of Mandela must mean that we actually movement forward... with regards to matter in our Constitution.

The former statesman went on to stress that being the legacy meant also reflecting back on what's been done that's not worked and what can be done to fix that.

He added that while it is a good thing to respond to the call to mark the centenary, it was equally important to respond to the challenge of being the legacy in practical ways.

Mbeki was joined by human rights lawyer Advocate George Bizos, businesswoman Dr Mamphela Ramphele and Thebe Tourism Group CEO Jerry Mabena.

Other speakers at the sod turning ceremony included Mandela's chef Xoliswa Ndoyiya as well as Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang.

The Mandela Presidential centre will function as a hotel for travellers wishing to take a reflective walk in the struggle icon's shoes. The centre will also be the home of the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity