Mumbai to celebrate Mandela Day for the first time

The South African Consulate will join hands with Smile Foundation to bring smiles to underprivileged kids in honour of Mandela’s humanitarian legacy

This July 18, you might want to set aside 67 minutes to help those in need — one minute of charitable work for every year that the late Nelson Mandela devoted to humanitarian service. The idea springs from the fact that the South African Consulate will celebrate the Nelson Mandela International Day for the first time in the city. It was inspired by Nelson Mandela’s speech at his 90th birthday celebrations in London’s Hyde Park in 2008, when he said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”

Nelson Mandela International Day celebrations in South Africa last year
Nelson Mandela International Day celebrations in South Africa last year

The United Nations officially declared July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day in November 2009.

The day is meant to encourage people to emulate Mandela’s humanitarian legacy and recognise the decades he spent fighting for peace and freedom.

This year the consulate will be spending 67 minutes with underprivileged children from Smile Foundation, an NGO that has been working on welfare projects in more than 700 remote villages across India.

“It is more than a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy. It is a global movement to honour his life’s work and act to change the world for the better. Hence, we are urging every Mumbaikar to devote 67 minutes from their busy schedule to do something good that would make a difference in somebody’s life,” said Maropene Ramokgopa, South African Consulate General.

Those interested can join in the celebrations, which will begin at 10 am at Smile Foundation Centre in Vile Parle, and will include painting the classroom, lunch with children, followed by music and dance.

The evening will conclude with a special screening of the movie ‘Invictus’, a 2009 film by Clint Eastwood on the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), to help unite their country.

Indian connection
Interestingly, India was Mandela’s first destination abroad after being released from jail, where he was held for more than 25 years for leading the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. “Madiba first visited India in 1990. He was also awarded the highest civilian honour by the Government of India on his visit. He was also inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandih, as both loved peace,” she added.

The celebrations, feels Ramokgopa, is all the more significant with Prime Minister Narendra Modi currently on a tour of four African countries with an aim to boost ties. “South Africa has the largest number of Indians in Africa. They came as labourers, but have played a crucial role in the liberation struggle of the oppressed in South Africa. India is a strategic partner for us, both politically and economically,” she said.

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