There is a special kind of warmth that creeps into your heart when you see South Africa’s most loved faces, hear his name, or even hear an impersonation of his voice.
Nelson Mandela’s presence is all around us – from murals on dusty walls to the giant bronze statue in Sandton. We see him on road signs, in schoolbooks, on bridges and squares, even on our money – and it always evokes that same feeling, best described as respect, admiration and most definitely love.
Those who have had the honour of living in his time feel the privilege in every memory back to the 1995 world cup, of his colourful printed shirts and his distinctive dance.
Madiba is without a doubt the father of our nation, and he leaves an inspiring legacy behind him for us to remember – and live up to. From the struggle of freeing a nation to rebuilding it, he dedicated his life and legacy to making the lives of his people better.
One of his first actions after he became president was to establish the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in 1995. He even committed one third of his Presidential salary for five years, to ensure that the fund would continue. Striving to change the way society treats its children, to improve their lives, the foundation is Mandela’s legacy for children – and it includes lifetime members like Denzel Washington and Bill Gates.
When he stepped down as president in 1999, he founded the Nelson Mandela Foundation to continue engaging in worthy causes. And through the Centre of Memory, the foundation is keeping his legacy alive – promoting the values, vision and work of its founder – and opening up dialogue around critical social issues.
The Centre also works closely with its sister organisations – the Children’s Fund and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation that runs a scholarship programme – and uses the 46664 initiative as a vehicle to work within the HIV/AIDS sector.
Another one of Mandela’s initiatives rich in celebrity support, 46664 was initially started as a global HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaign. It has since expanded to encompass all areas of his humanitarian legacy, and to confront issues of social injustice. At the 46664 London concert in 2008, Mandela addressed the crowd and called on the leaders of future generations to help change the world for the better: “It is in your hands now,” he said.
This gave rise to a day that encourages each one of us, as individuals, to carry Mandela’s legacy forward – Nelson Mandela Day. Celebrated each year on his birthday (18 July), it encourages people around the world to spend at least 67 minutes doing something positive for their communities – honouring the 67 years Mandela gave to the struggle for freedom.
Having spent nearly three decades of his life behind bars – and emerging truly forgiving and humble – Mandela sacrificed his life for his people, and he will forever be remembered as South Africa's best known and loved hero.