The month of July marks the birthday of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known as Madiba to most of us, the indisputable father of our nation. With the exception of the 27th of April which is essentially South Africa‘s birthday as a democratic nation, his is possibly the only birthday that the whole country unanimously decides to celebrate every year.
To every South African, the reason why he plays such a huge role in our lives is uncontested. As children in school, we learn about his role in paving the road to democracy, his part in changing a tumultuous segregated country into a nation based on unity and acceptance. Madiba is South Africa’s legacy. His life story tells the tale of the road to freedom through his political activism as a youth, to his years in prison on Robin Island, to his role in bringing democracy to a country plagued by inequality and racism and finally to becoming South Africa‘s first black president. This nation owes much of the liberties we enjoy today, to Madiba. The 18th of July should be a celebration of how far our country has come in honour of, not only Madiba but, all those who fought for South Africa‘s freedom, all those who allowed this Rainbow Nation to flourish.
Last year the Nelson Mandela Foundation started the 67 minutes concept. The 18th of July marks the day where South Africans are encouraged to do 67 minutes of goodwill, 67 minutes of showing basic compassion to another human being, to animals, or to the environment. 67 minutes to make a small but significant change to the world in honour of Madiba‘s life. Call it paying it forward if you will. We are a generation constantly reminded of our past, reminded as human beings never to repeat the mistakes of the former government again. The 18th of July becomes a day where we can take a proactive role of not only preaching the messages of unity and acceptance, but rather of living with these values, even if it is only for 67 minutes, and firmly entrenching them into our society. Its your 67 minutes that begins the change from a South Africa defined by our past, by our racial and class boundaries to a South Africa defined by all the ideals that Madiba fought for. And thus begs the question, what will you do with your 67 minutes?