Today is the first Mandela Day since Nelson Mandela’s death. Today would have been his 96th birthday.
Mandela Day has been running for five years, during which people around the world are encouraged to carry out acts of kindness in the name of the former South African president and peace icon. For the past five years millions have volunteered 67 minutes of their time on July 18 for the common good to mark Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of activism for South Africa’s freedom.
The call to do good deeds in his name started in Johannesburg and New York in 2009, and has expanded to 126 countries this year.
For the first Mandela Day after his passing, events are planned in Paris, New York, Dallas, London, Edinburgh and Glasgow, while a film portraying his life will premiere in China.
Meanwhile President Jacob Zuma has called on South Africans to bring out their brooms and mops and help spruce up their country.
“This year, we have decided to honour Madiba’s memory through a massive ‘Operation Clean Up for Madiba’ campaign,” he said, using a respectful tribal name to refer to the country’s first black president.
“We should demonstrate our love for our beautiful country by cleaning our surroundings, together.
“In this way, we will be promoting working together to build our beautiful country, which is what Madiba taught us as South Africans,” he added.
Authorities have encouraged citizens to clear litter from clinics and schools, though some taxpayers grumble that that is the government’s job.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison during his struggle against white-minority rule, but forgave his former oppressors when the apartheid regime ended with free elections in 1994.
His actions to reconcile his country’s divided people earned him global respect and the Nobel Peace prize.
“His extraordinary compassion after 27 years in prison showed that human rights and equality are stronger than discrimination and hate,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this week.
In the days leading up to Mandela Day on July 18, people have been urged to ask friends and colleagues to post pictures of their good deeds on social media.
Politicians have also capitalised on the event to polish their own image, announcing where they will be rolling up their sleeves in the hope of media coverage.
President Zuma will clean up a school in Mvezo, the village in the eastern Cape where Mandela was born.
Mandela, the former president of South Africa and Nobel Peace Price recipient, died at the age of 95 on Dec. 5, 2013.