Standing together for Mandela Day

By admin
19 July 2013

On Mandela Day, Wednesday 18 July, hundreds of people gathered in Klipfontein Road in Athlone, Cape Town, to give 67 minutes of their time in honour of Madiba.

It’s a cold, miserable day in Cape Town as the winter chill sweeps across the city, biting through layers of clothing. But this hasn’t stopped a large group of people – including school kids, students, community leaders and even members of the Independent Electoral Commission – from stepping out in good spirits to join hands, united by Nelson Mandela’s legacy to the nation. Everyone cheers and occasionally they sing the national anthem as they give 67 minutes of their time on Madiba’s 95th birthday.

The idea for the “human chain” came from local citizens – to create a chain of people, spread across 9 km, holding hands for 67 minutes from 1 pm along Klipfontein Road between Rondebosch and Gugulethu, with most located around Athlone Stadium.

Ruschka Jaffer, the event coordinator, said organising the chain had begun a mere eight days before and although it was a daunting task at times she was motivated by Madiba’s words, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” She was inspired to create the human chain, she says, “to show that we can do something. We don’t need to wait before we make a huge change; a simple idea can do that”.

Children from schools in Rondebosch, Athlone and elsewhere gathered alongside the road during their lunch break. The sky soon darkened and a few raindrops fell but everyone stood in place and continued to hold hands, using headscarves and rain jackets to shield their faces as they braced the bitter nip in the air.

Micah Richards (21), a student at the Cape Town College of Fashion Design, came along with friends. “It’s a great opportunity to show our support for his [Mandela’s] dream and mission for the country,” she said.

The joyous celebration also united groups of people from churches, mosques and synagogues who joined in to commemorate and celebrate Madiba’s life. The Cape Town Islamic Education Centre performed a heart-warming song to showcase its talent and send a heartfelt message to Mandela. The centre’s Moulana Sayed Imraan said, “We’re happy to show our support for the father of the nation. A lot of doors of opportunity have been opened for the youth of today [because of him].”

At 2 pm, as the rain subsided and the wind calmed, people began singing Happy Birthday to Madiba. Smiles and general good cheer filled the air as South Africans stood together proudly to celebrate and commemorate the statesman who was spending his 41st day in hospital.

Community leaders hold hands as they give 67 minutes of their time to South Africa.

“It’s a great pleasure and honour to show our unity and diversity.” – Sheikh Haider

“It’s wonderful to be here to celebrate Madiba’s birthday. The human chain shares the energy created by Madiba.” – Guru Krishna, founder member of the Hindu Association of the Western Cape

“It just shows we can bring all the faiths together. It shows the value and strength of Madiba’s principles. All cultures, religions and races can live together.” – Bishop Geoff Davies, coordinator of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute

With the priceless legacy Madiba has given our beautiful and diverse country and the nation standing together, the future looks bright.

By Faiza Mallick

Photographer - Nico Maneveld

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