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'Mandela Day' unites South Africans

Sun 20, July 2014 Kategori Culture
South Africans from all walks of life came together on Friday to give 67 minutes of their time to helping others as part of "International Nelson Mandela Day" in honor of the late anti-apartheid hero.

"I distributed my old blankets and clothes to homeless people who could not afford these items yet badly need them," Johannesburg resident Simon Sipho told Anadolu Agency.

He said he hoped the donated blankets would keep their beneficiaries warm during the upcoming winter season.

Mandela spent 67 years of his life struggling for the liberation of his country.

"Mandela scarified a lot for our freedom. We must honor him by helping others, so as to make the world a better place," Mike Banda, another Johannesburg resident, told AA.

He said he, too, would distribute food to homeless people on the streets of Johannesburg in honor of the late liberation icon.

For her part, Lerato Joy said she planned to volunteer at a Johannesburg charity for the disabled.

"I can't wait to do my part. I will volunteer at a charity for disabled people," she said.

International Nelson Mandela Day, which was officially endorsed by the United Nations in 2009, is commemorated on July 18.

"If there is one person who unites South Africans of all racial groups, it's Nelson Mandela. The mere mention of his name brings a smile to people's faces," Joy said.

She said that love for Mandela always brought South Africans together, despite their racial differences.

"His life was an inspiration for all of us. He is gone, but people still love him," Johannesburg shopkeeper Patel Youssef told AA.

This year's commemoration, however, was tinged with sorrow due to Mandela's death last December at the age of 95.

Mandela became South Africa's first democratically elected president in 1994 – an office he held for five years.
He is beloved by many South Africans as the "father of the nation" after having spent 27 years in prison for taking up arms against the country's apartheid regime.

A number of activities have been planned throughout the country to commemorate the occasion.

In Pretoria, cabinet ministers and diplomats took part in a clean-up of the city.

"The clean-up comes in line with His Excellency President Jacob Zuma's call to South Africans to honor Madiba's [Mandela's] memory by beautifying their surroundings," South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said in a statement.

DIRCO said the participation of the diplomatic community in the clean-up campaign signified the international community's appreciation for Mandela's selfless service to his country.

"I will play my part by participating in a clean-up activity at the Nelson Mandela School of Science and Technology… and other activities before opening the Mvezo Komkhulu Museum," President Zuma said in a statement issued earlier this week.

Meanwhile, in Johannesburg, pro-Palestinian activists will use the day to stage demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy's trade office in Sandton to protest Israel's ongoing onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

Since July 7, at least 264 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 2000 injured in relentless Israeli attacks on the strip, which Israeli claims are aimed at halting rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

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