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Nelson Mandela International Day

July 15, 2011

The Nelson Mandela International Day, as recognised by the United Nations, is celebrated annually on his birthday, 18 July, and people are encouraged to donate at least 67 minutes of their time in service to their communities. Nelson Mandela Day is a global observance but it is not a public holiday.

Nelson Mandela Day not only celebrates Nelson Mandela’s life, but it is also a global call to action for people to recognise their ability to have a positive effect on others around them. The day hopes to inspire people to embrace the values that Mandela shared. These values include democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation, and respect.

Nelson Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18, 1918. He is one of the most well-known anti-apartheid activists inSouth Africa. He was jailed in 1964 for leading the liberation movement against apartheid and for his stance on the human right to live in freedom.

Mandela’s prisoner number was 466 and the year was 1964 when he was imprisoned on Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town. The Robben Island prisoners were never referred to by their names, but rather by their numbers and year of imprisonment – hence 46664 was Nelson Mandela’s number. His release from prison in 1990 fed political debates in the country and contributed to South Africa’s transition towards a multi-racial democracy.

After his release, Nelson Mandela continued addressing racial issues in his country and supported reconciliation initiatives. His efforts resulted in him becoming elected as South Africa’s president in 1994. He remained in office as president until 1999. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize, together with another former South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk, in 1993.

Walk in Mandela’s Footsteps

Nelson Mandela’s legacy spans the whole of South Africa, and across the globe but there are certain areas in Cape Town and the Western Cape where Madiba spent significant periods of his life and made unforgettable moments in history.

Confucius said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and to get an inkling of where Mandela’s long walk to freedom began, you have to take that first single step toRobbenIsland. Robben Island is seven kilometers off the coast of Cape Town and is the tiny island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned with other political prisoners for eighteen years. You can view Mandela’s cell and the lime quarry where prisoners undertook hard labour. Former prisoners give guided tours and first-hand accounts of their experiences and ferries and tours to Robben Island can be booked at the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V & A Waterfront.

Mandela was also imprisoned in Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, but was eventually released from the Groot Drakenstein Prison (then known as Victor Verster Prison) in the Cape Winelands on 11 February 1990. On 27 August 2008, a huge bronze statue of a triumphant Nelson Mandela with his fist in the air was unveiled at the entrance to the Groot Drakenstein Prison and it stands on the very spot where Mandela took his first steps as a free man.

To explore Mandela’s life outside of prison you need to make your way to Cape Town city bowl. The Grand Parade in the city centre is where 100 000 people gathered to see Nelson Mandela in the flesh for the first time in 27 years and hear him address the crowd – and the world – from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall. Cape Town City Hall will also be of interest to architecture enthusiasts as it is a beautiful Edwardian building that was built in 1905 and has Table Mountain as the breathtaking backdrop.

From the Grand Parade it is a short walk to Tuinhuis in the Company Gardens. Tuinhuis is the official Cape Town residence of the president and Nelson Mandela was joyously inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president on 10 May 1994 and presided until June 1999.

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