World remembers Nelson Mandela on his 104th birthday

JOHANNESBURG — Millions of people around the world remembered Nelson Mandela, the most revered global statesman, who would have turned 104 years old on Monday.

The United Nations in 2009 designated July 18 as International Nelson Mandela Day to celebrate his birthday and highlight the fight against racism and apartheid.

To honor Mandela and his selfless contribution to humanity, South Africans from all walks of life are dedicated 67 minutes of their time to volunteer for good causes.

“I am going to donate jackets and blankets to help homeless people who can’t afford these items,” Maria Lerato, a resident of Kensington in Johannesburg, told Anadolu Agency.

It is currently winter in South Africa, and Lerato believes donations here will prove handy in benefitting the less fortunate. The 67 minutes given to help the less fortunate is a tribute to the number of years Mandela spent in public service.

Muhammed Desai, director of human rights group Africa 4 Palestine, said his organization will dedicate its time on Monday to remembering the internationalist spirit of Mandela by raising the Palestinian issue and Mandela’s position and support for the Palestinian people.

Mandela once said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Born in the village of Mvezo in Eastern Cape province, Mandela spent 27 years in prison for opposing the apartheid regime. He became South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994.

Despite having been incarcerated for many years, he did not exercise bitterness, rancor or revenge against his tormentors. Instead, he chose reconciliation and forgiveness to unite all racial groups in South Africa. His leadership approach and ability to bring everyone together won him global admiration and the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.

President Cyril Ramaphosa led the International Nelson Mandela Day commemoration in the city of Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape, where he also lead a site inspection at a water treatment works and later a cleanup of the Swartkops River in Veeplaas.

Several ministers, heads of diplomatic missions and business leaders rolled up their sleeves to clean roads, hospices, orphanages and schools, among others. The Turkish Embassy  donated hygiene items at local hospices.

Saber Ahmed Jazbhay, a leading South African lawyer, said every day is Mandela Day for him and he does not wait until July 18 to do good. “I do what I have been doing all my life, and that is helping people who seek my help,” he added.

He said during his country’s struggle against apartheid in the 1980s, he used to offer legal assistance to detainees in distress. “So nothing different. Mandela Day is every day for me,” he said, urging South Africans to be kind and do good all the time for the less fortunate.

Mustafa Mheta, a professor at Somali National University and head of the Africa Desk at the Johannesburg-based think tank Media Review Network, said there are many South Africans who still try to live up to Mandela’s expectations, which is good, but others seem to have abandoned that legacy. “We are beginning to see a lot of hate crimes like xenophobia and Afrophobia, which never happened during Tata Mandela’s time,” he said. “Tata” is the Xhosa word for “father.”

Mheta said the current ruling party — the African National Congress (ANC), which Mandela once led — seems to be drifting away from the icon’s expectations at a high rate. Top members of the ruling ANC have been accused of corruption, with some asked to step aside to rid the party of corruption.

Iqbal Jassat, an executive member of Media Review Network, said “South Africa today is gripped in fear with criminals running rampant, giving rise to perceptions about the ruling African National Congress’s failure to govern.”

South Africa’s problem, Jassat said is compounded by shocking levels of poverty, joblessness, homelessness and a host of social iniquities.He stressed that unless Mandela Day reconnects with the ideals of Mandela’s freedom struggle, South Africa will fail to honor his legacy.

“Unfortunately, Mandela Day has been appropriated by many for various reasons, including commercials. Sadly, it reflects the shift away from Mandela’s enormous legacy of struggle,” he added. (Anadolu)