Category Archives: Mandela Day

M&G: Mandela Day: You cannot do much in 67 minutes

Mandela Day: You cannot do much in 67 minutes

by Niren Tolsi & Aneesa Fazel

Activists believe a bit of paint does little to make a difference and that honouring Nelson Mandela needs true commitment.

With half the country’s politicians apparently rolling up their sleeves on Mandela Day to paint something – orphanages, old-age homes, schools, anything, really – the obvious, cynical question doing the rounds was: Who received the tender to supply the paint?

Perhaps less obvious was whether these 67 minutes were spent doing something that showed a level of activism worthy of the man Nelson Mandela and the years he spent in prison. Did they actually add to South Africans’ collective commitment to community and community activism? Was July 18, with its deluge of celebrities and politicians gushing about the cathartic and spiritual alignment they experienced while spending 67 minutes watching paint dry an effective tool in reversing the often criticised post-apartheid trend of apathy?

The Democratic Left Front’s Mazibuko Jara believes it was good to get individuals to contribute their time to a cause worthier than themselves, but the actions on Mandela Day “do not help to get communities organised in a sustainable, progressive and transformative way so that these communities can change their lives for themselves”.

“Mandela Day leaves structural issues within communities and becomes a propaganda tool for the government to gloss over systematic problems,” Jara said.

It is a view echoed by Mnikelo Ndabankulu, of the shack-dweller movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, who described it as a “media opportunity for celebrities and politicians”.

Keeping track

“If someone really plans to be an activist, they need a scorecard from July 19 2012 until July 17 2013 to keep track of what they do. Activism is a daily, lifelong thing, not something for just one day.

“Real activism is what we do at an organisational level, working every day to serve people, keep them informed and fighting against injustices like the lack of services in shack settlements, not painting a school for a few hours on one day of the year,” said Ndabankulu.

He spent July 18 helping people in Durban’s Kennedy Road to rebuild their shacks after a weekend fire gutted about 50 homes.

Not because it was Mandela Day, he said, but because it was what he did, having spent the previous week protesting against the pollution by oil refineries in the Durban South Basin, attending all-night prayer meetings and then assisting at Kennedy Road.

Noting that most of the minutes of activism on July 18 revolved around the dishing out of food hampers and donating homes to people, Jara underlined the debilitating effect this sort of action – however well-intentioned – would have on the agency of ordinary communities to organise themselves.

A national effort

“It’s not about building power through communities … It’s still not contributing to the idea of a national effort to address the systematic problems we face,” he said.

At 8am on Wednesday, this was plain to see: politicians kitted out in eThekwini municipality overalls were gearing up for their 67 minutes of Mandela Day “activism”.

It entailed “donating houses in Inanda”, handing out “R100 000 worth of equipment” such as fridges to old-age homes, “donating food parcels” and, of course, painting anything that was not going to move.

Chief whip and former eThekwini deputy mayor Logie Naidoo said: “We will not engender activism in the country if our actions on Mandela Day are not sustainable.”

He said it was important for the ANC to declare the next 10 years “the decade of the cadre” because “the country needs selfless, dedicated and knowledgeable cadres”.

Hegemonic tendencies

The Mail & Guardian pointed out that the ANC’s hegemonic tendencies sometimes hampered community activism. An example was the occupation of the office of Nomzamo Mkhize, councillor for ward 88, by members of Abahlali and the Unemployed People’s Movement, who called for her arrest after she had allegedly physically attacked community activists from those organisations.

Naidoo said he was unaware of the attacks, but the “ANC must be encouraging other civil society organisations to get involved so that we are unified in how we face and deal with the country’s problems”.

For designer Gert-Johan Coetzee, Mandela Day is about the everyday, in little ways: “I am now more aware of doing good and doing it throughout the year. It makes a difference in my life to add value to the lives of others.”

Coetzee spent Mandela Day “joining the protest rally for the activation of micro-loans for women in Africa. This would enable women to take their businesses further.”

He also donated animal food to the SPCA and attended a Save the Rhino event later that evening.

Away from July 18, every year he designs a matric dance dress for an underprivileged pupil.

Update from Umlazi: Zwelethu Train Station Shut Down & Protest at the Police Station

18 July 2012
Combined UPM & AbM Press Statement

Update from Umlazi: Zwelethu Train Station Shut Down & Protest at the Police Station

At around 4:00 a.m. yesterday morning activists involved in the Umlazi Occupation and the ward 88 struggle closed down the Zwelethu Train Station. This action was in protest at the failure of the police to arrest the ward councillor, Nomzamo Mkhize, after she and her son assaulted an activist.

There was a stand-off between activists and the police at the train station following which the general secretary of the BEC of the local ANC branch, Sandile, tried to arrange an urgent meeting with Nigel Gumede. A meeting with Gumede has always been one of the demands of the Umlazi Occupation.

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Why We Continue to Struggle Rather than Celebrating Freedom on Mandela Day

17 July 2011

Revolutionary radicals recalcitrant in their reflective refusal to revere “freedom days” are dubbed as reactionaries by our “democratic state”.

by Reverend Mavuso Mbhekeseni, Rural Network

The South African calendar is full of days on which we are asked to celebrate our freedom. There is Human Rights Day, Freedom Day, Worker's Day, Youth Day, Mandela Day, Women's Day and Heritage Day. These days are turned to months. Those of us who refuse to celebrate these days and months as if the struggle is over and who insist that the struggle goes on are called reactionaries.

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The Kennedy 12 Will be Back in Court on Mandela Day

17 July 2011
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement

The Kennedy 12 Will be Back in Court on Mandela Day

We wish to remind all our comrades and friends that we will be back in court, for the third part of the trial of the Kennedy 12, on Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 July 2011. You are all invited to join us at the court.

While the rest of the country and the world will be celebrating Mandela Day by remembering the struggle of Tata Mandela we will be celebrating our daily Mandela Day in court where we continue to face state repression in the third year since our movement was attacked in the Kennedy Road settlement.

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