Nelson Mandela. File photo: Reuters

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the world’s most famous living politician, turns 94 on Wednesday.

His legacy of service to others will be celebrated around the world as governments, civil society groups and ordinary citizens plant trees, paint old-age homes, renovate dilapidated schools or simply offer a helping hand to those in need.

In November 2009 the international community – through a resolution of the UN General Assembly – declared July 18 ”Nelson Mandela International Day”.

The UN urged member states to support the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s call for people to donate 67 minutes of the day in service to others – in recognition of Madiba’s 67 years in politics.

Millions of television viewers around the world will witness Wednesday’s stage of the Tour de France being led out of the town of Pau, southern France, by a large banner wishing Madiba a happy birthday. This will be broadcast live on SuperSport at 10.55am local time.

In SA, government officials, politicians, NGO workers and others will be fanning out across the country and, in a collective flurry of good neighbourliness, roll up their sleeves to make a contribution to the Madiba legacy.

President Jacob Zuma will be abroad on Wednesday, having departed on Tuesday on a state visit to China.

But the president managed to squeeze in a visit to Madiba at his home in Qunu last week.

The ANC, which Mandela led between 1991 and 1997, will host events in all nine provinces on Wednesday as part of its Letsema Campaign celebrating Mandela Day.

Soccer enthusiasts will sing their birthday wishes at the Moses Madhiba Stadium in Durban on Wednesday night when AmaZulu take on Manchester United in an MTN Football Invitational match.

Habitat for Humanity will ramp up its good work by building no fewer than 67 houses in various parts of the country.

Meals on Wheels will be hosting an “adopt a grandparent on Mandela Day” project.

Volunteers will be visiting old-age homes to accompany residents on assisted shopping trips or visits to hospitals and pharmacies, among other activities.

The Boundless Heart Foundation will set up a container library in Blikkiesdorp (Delft) on the Cape Flats and help residents to start their own vegetable gardens.

The Joubert Park Youth Outreach Project, an NGO, is running a Nelson Mandela week that includes cleaning up a taxi rank, a big walk – to symbolise Madiba’s long walk – from Joubert Park to Constitution Hill in Joburg and a “fun day for smaller kids”.

Correctional Services Minister S’bu Ndebele will “join forces with offenders and officials” to renovate the Tsakani Primary School near Brakpan on the East Rand and a child-headed home in Naledi, Soweto, according to the ministry. This will include fixing old school desks, installing shelving and burglar bars in the school library and establishing a vegetable garden, as well as fixing broken windows, painting the toilets and doing some general DIY jobs.

“The initiative is aligned with correctional services’ mandate of changing the lives of offenders by affording them the opportunity to give back to communities and to demonstrate remorse for the crimes they have committed against communities,” explained ministerial spokesman Logan Maistry.

Deputy Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi will hand over three houses – built by prisoners – to “destitute and disabled families” in Paarl and Khayelitsha on Wednesday morning.

National staff from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), including chairwoman Pansy Tlakula, will devote their 67 minutes to fixing a leaking roof, painting rooms and doing welding and other maintenance work at the New Jerusalem Children’s Home in Midrand, which cares for about 80 abandoned, abused, traumatised, orphaned and HIV-positive children.

The IEC will also be spreading Madiba magic throughout the land, with provincial and local office staff having undertaken to support projects in each of the nine provinces.

These will include painting an orphanage in the rural Eastern Cape; rebuilding the home of a child-headed household in Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal; sharing lunch with 39 orphans in Lebone Village just outside Mangaung, Free State; cleaning the premises of the Ratanang School for people with disabilities in Blouberg, Limpopo; and spending time with the 25 elderly residents of the Kgomotsego Old Age Home in Kuruman, Northern Cape.

Rejoice Mabudafhasi, the Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, will mobilise the local community of Ficksburg in the Free State to give their time and labour to paint the Boitumelo High School, lay foundations for toilets, clean the school yard and plant trees. She will be joined by Setsoto executive mayor Mbothomo Maduna.

DA national spokesman Mmusi Maimane will lead his party’s Johannesburg councillors in painting and fixing up classrooms at the Gordon Primary School in Alexandra.

In Cape Town, Transport MEC Robin Carlisle will be dedicating his 67 minutes to refurbishing the Newlands Train Station in collaboration with Metrorail and the Newlands Residents’ Association.

Cosatu deputy president Zingiswa Losi will join his counterpart at the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, Christine Olivier, and representatives from the ANC Women’s League and Sadtu to “dispense sanitary towels to 345 vulnerable and poor girl pupils” at Tyongwana Senior Primary School outside Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape.

Members of the Democratic Left Front have thrown their weight behind the 67 Minutes of Shame campaign, which uses Mandela Day to raise awareness about “corrective rape” and other abuses suffered by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and inter-sex community.

“We can no longer keep silent about the alarming increase in the number of lesbian and gay people who are victimised daily in our townships, informal settlements, inner cities, rural villages and other parts of the country,” the organisation said on Tuesday.

The group will be marching to the Library Gardens in Joburg from 11am and are expected to hand over a memorandum to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe to “protest against the silence of the ANC and demand action against hate crimes and violence”.

l If you have not planned anything specific for Nelson Mandela Day, you could always join one of the many organised activities planned across the country.

For a full list of activities sanctioned by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, visit the organisation’s website at or the events page at

Resolution adopted by the General Assembly: Nelson Mandela International Day:

The General Assembly, recognising the long history of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s leading role in and support for Africa’s struggle for liberation and Africa’s unity, and his outstanding contribution to the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa,

Recognising also Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, as a humanitarian, in conflict resolution, race relations, promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and vulnerable groups, and the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities,

Acknowledging Nelson Mandela’s contribution to the Struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world,

Welcoming the international campaign initiated by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and related organisations to each year observe July 18, his birthday, as Mandela Day,

Welcoming also the statements of support by the secretary-general and the president of the General Assembly at its sixty-third session, on the occasion of the celebration of Mandela Day on 18 July 2009,

Recalling the worldwide participation and celebration of the inaugural Mandela Day on July 18, 2009,

Recalling also the endorsement by the heads of state and government of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries of the observance of July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day and the request that a resolution to this effect be adopted by the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session,

1. Decides to designate July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day, to be observed each year beginning in 2010;

2. Invites all member states, organisations of the UN system and other international organisations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organisations and individuals, to observe Nelson Mandela International Day in an appropriate manner;

3. Requests the secretary-general to take the necessary measures, within existing resources, for the observance by the UN of Nelson Mandela International Day;

4. Also requests the secretary-general to keep the General Assembly informed at its sixty-fifth session of the implementation of the present resolution within the UN system, and thereafter to keep the Assembly informed on an annual basis concerning the observance of Nelson Mandela International Day;

5. Further requests the secretary-general to bring the present resolution to the attention of all member states and UN organisations.

42nd plenary meeting, November 10, 2009

Political Bureau