T-shirt typo turns heads at Mandela bicycle ride

2014-07-22 14:21
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela had a way with words, but not quite like this.

Cyclists traversing Johannesburg in the former president's honour wore T-shirts with one of his many inspiring quotations, along with a glaring typographical error in the word "freedom”.

The T-shirt read: "The purpose of freedoom is to create it for others."

Organiser Hugh Fraser said on Tuesday that 5 000 T-shirts with the typo were made for Sunday's 35km "Freedom Ride”, which passed landmarks in downtown Johannesburg and the city's Soweto area.

'PR hiccup'

Fraser says the spelling mistake was "a bit of a PR hiccup" and that the cycling event was otherwise a big success, drawing 8 000 riders.

It came two days after the 18 July birthday of Mandela, who died in December at the age of 95. The goal is to promote commuter cycling and to connect communities in Johannesburg.

The ride passed the Nelson Mandela Bridge, which was completed in 2003 amid efforts to revive the dilapidated downtown area; a cemetery where anti-apartheid activists are buried; and Soweto's Vilakazi Street, where Mandela and Desmond Tutu, a former archbishop and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had lived.

In an e-mail to organisers, rider Valli Moosa said it was "the most multi-racial ride I have been on".

The quotation on the cyclists' T-shirts is from Mandela's prison desk calendar, and was written on 2 June 1979 while he was on Robben Island, where the anti-apartheid leader was held for part of his 27 years of incarceration during apartheid.

Most people took the spelling error with a "pinch of salt" and laughed, Fraser said. He speculated that Mandela would have done the same.

"He had a great sense of humour," Fraser said. "He would understand."

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