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Mandela’s Legacy

The month of July has seen many South Africans getting their hands dirty in the name of Nelson Mandela. #67minutes is the time set aside in our country for people to give back and help those less fortunate. The question I continue to ask myself is what kind of help one can give in just over an hour, and how does this fit in with the legacy of Madiba.

This morning I was tormented by an interview done with Graca Machel, former wife of Mandela. Her initiative was giving food parcels to needy women and children. And every year, for the last five years since International Mandela Day was instated, we see these food parcels distributed to millions of people in our country. That was just the beginning! Social media was flooded with people showing pictures of themselves doing things for those less fortunate. #MandelaDay #GivingBack was the order of the day! I wanted to throw up, disgusted by the fact that one man’s legacy was reduced to 67 minutes!

Are we putting the message out to those less fortunate that they are poor and there is no hope for them?

Apart from my disgust something way deeper lingered in my heart. 18 July started as a call to our nation to celebrate Mandela and act on the idea that everyone has the power to change the world. We are inspired to give back to those less fortunate by giving them a helping hand. But what help is really being done? What effect happens in a person’s life if you pitch once a year for 67 minutes? I believe this trend creates a culture of victims! We are not creating resilience in people but we are creating people that cannot do things for themselves and therefore they should accept handouts. Running a program for a specific day once a year does not cause any significant change. Not only are we not causing significant change but we could also be creating people that will not be able to do things for themselves! Are we putting the message out to those less fortunate that they are poor and there is no hope for them? Was this the legacy of Mandela? Is this the future we envision for a wealthy country like South Africa? One should really look deep and ask themselves who really benefits from this 67 minutes..

Nelson Mandela himself was once a poor man. In his autobiography, we read that he would sometimes go for weeks without a proper meal. Renting a shack in Soweto, most of his money went to buying candles so that he could study at night. Through all those hardships, Mandela continued to hold a vision in his mind; though things were not good, one day he would be able to afford to get what he wanted. Nelson Mandela created his own wealth. I believe this is the kind of education we should be celebrating and contributing to. And that my dear friends is a journey way longer than 67 minutes.

I propose that what we need to be focusing on is creating a culture where people believe that they can do things for themselves and not wait for the 18th of July to come around. For us, mentoring is the answer. Building a supportive and encouraging relationship of influence in someone’s life brings real, sustainable transformation. As a country we need to start investing in empowering people instead of making them handicapped. That was the legacy of Mandela.

by Lumko Velapi


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