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Mandela Day: Still the same or not?

By Nomahlozi Ramohloki​, 20, Free State

Nelson Mandela International Day is celebrated on the 18th of July of every year in honour of the late and first democratically elected President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who fought for the freedom of South Africans who were oppressed and were under the apartheid regime. The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009 and the day was officially celebrated in 2010. On this day, people are called to use at least 67 minutes of their time making a positive impact in their communities and in other people’s lives with the belief that people have the power to transform others’ lives for the better. Is the spirit still the same though?

Events after democracy: 2020 – 2021

Twenty-seven years of democracy in South Africa, yet things are only getting worse. The government is failing the people, the pandemic is negatively affecting the economy, the citizens are losing hope in the government, an economic recession and as if all these issues are not enough, an unrest for the release of former President Jacob Zuma happened in Mandela month and as a result people started looting and further crippling the economy.

“South Africa has Africa’s largest Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) caseload and a rapidly accelerating outbreak, which has devastated the economy and sharply intensified prior challenges facing the government. Notable among these are years of anaemic economic growth and corruption linked to Zuma and a network of business and political associates tied to him. Such graft was so systematic that it was dubbed “state capture.” (Cook, 2017).

The spread of Covid-19 and the unrest is also blamed on the government for not taking necessary measures and taking the money meant to aid in the action against the virus, “A variety of narratives have emerged in an effort to explain the looting frenzy. Some have accused die-hard supporters of former president Jacob Zuma of fueling the unrest. Others have intimated that the looting is a consequence of state capture and the high level of criminality in South Africa.” (Lamb, 2021).

Impact of the events on Mandela Day

From the events that have occurred since Nelson Mandela stepped down as President, it is evident that the vision Nelson Mandela had has not been upheld. There is no unity in Africa, poverty still prevails, and justice is not always served to those who deserve it. This has had a negative impact on most South Africans as they also shared and still share the same vision as the late Tata Madiba and as a result most South African citizens did not celebrate this important day. Some even took it to social media to say, we should let Tata rest as it is clear that the current government officials are only concerned about themselves as they keep promoting nepotism and corruption.

Some South Africans, however, did celebrate this important day and spent their sixty-seven minutes cleaning the streets and malls that were affected by the unrest. One of these South Africans is the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, and this is evident from his statement, “This Sunday, South Africans will join people across the world in celebrating Nelson Mandela Day. As we reaffirm our commitment to our democracy, let us use Mandela Day to provide food to the most vulnerable in our society, to clean up our streets and to start the task of rebuilding.”, But is it really an act of goodness when the same people clean streets that they themselves have tainted? (Makhafola, 2021)

This year’s theme for Nelson Mandela Day was “One Hand Can Feed Another” and members of the public have been asked to donate non-perishable food items to the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s #Each1Feed1 initiative at participating shopping malls. This initiative will run for six months. But which hand has fed which?

The next step?

Things have been bittersweet in South Africa and it is time for both South African government and citizens to do better and make Tata Nelson Mandela proud and pass his vision on to future generations. Democracy has to truly be of the people, by the people and for the people. And as Tata Madiba said, “What is important is not only to attain victory for democracy, it is to retain democracy.” 


Cook, N. 2020. Congressional Research Service, South Africa: Current Issues, Economy, and U.S. Relations.

Lamb, G.  2021, July 15. Why have South Africans been on a looting rampage? Research offers insights. The Conversation.

Makhafola, G. 2021. . Let’s use Mandela Day to clean up and rebuild, says Ramaphosa. NEWS24.  


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2 responses on this

  1. Rita July 20, 2021 5:59 pm

    Insightful ✊

  2. Lusanda Molefe July 20, 2021 11:58 am

    Wow, this really does one make at South Africa differently especially the role I play as an individual.


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