Mandela changes face of South Africa

15:24, July 19, 2011      

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South African President Jacob Zuma (L) visits former President Nelson Mandela to congratulate his 93rd birthday in his home village of Qunu in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, July 18, 2011. (Xinhua/Ntswe Mokoena)

By Ntandoyenkosi Ncube

"From the moment Nelson Mandela strode out of prison on the 11th of February 1990, we knew that South Africa would be a different place," South African President Jacob Zuma said on Monday, joining the world in celebrating Mandela's 93rd birthday.

Mandela, South Africa's first black president, was born on July 18, 1918 and turned 93 on Monday.

Zuma visited the statesman at his rural village in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, joining millions around the country, spent the day celebrating Mandela's birthday.

In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared July 18 as annual International Nelson Mandela Day.

The day recognizes and honors Mandela's commitment to building a democratic society that is united, non racial and prosperous.

It also honors his contributions towards reconstruction and development of South Africa and building a better Africa and a better world.

"People across the globe were mesmerized by his wisdom, humility, patriotism and his capacity to forgive," Zuma said in his statement on Mandela Day.

"He showed us that despite the divisive racial oppression and hardships that this nation had gone through, it is not only possible, but necessary to embrace one another and to reconcile the South African people," South Africa's fourth black president said.

The first president to be elected under the new Constitution was Mandela, who was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki in 1999, followed by Kgalema Motlanthe in September 2008, and then Zuma in May 2009.

Through Mandela's love of peace and unity, South Africa adopted a policy of "South Africa belongs to everyone who live in it".

It is home to many nations from Africa to Asia through Europe. He is father to all Africans in South Africa from all racial divide.

He united blacks and whites making the true brothers and sisters. His desire is to see happy and prosperous South Africans, spreading peace and democracy throughout the continent.

Following his release from prison on Feb. 11, 1990, Mandela led the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa's ruling party, in the negotiations that led to multi-racial democracy in 1994. As president from 1994 to 1999, he gave priority to reconciliation.

"As the first President of a free and democratic South Africa, he laid the foundation for a truly non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society," Zuma said.

When Mandela took over office in 1994, he made it clear that in South Africa blacks and white are equally, they all enjoy the same constitutional privileges.

"He laid the foundation for a solid constitutional democracy where the rights of citizens are supreme and protected. He laid the foundation for all of us to work tirelessly to improve the quality of life of all our people," Zuma said.

"We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference," these are the words of Mandela in 2009.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) has used these powerful words to call on citizens of the world, especially people in South Africans to dedicate at least 67 minutes of their time to do community work in celebration of the values and principles that Mandela stood for.

"To celebrate Madiba's life, let each one of us, pledge to make South Africa an even better place in every possible way," Zuma said.

Mandela popularly known as Madiba was politically active for 67 years, and on Mandela Day people all over the world, in the workplace, at home and in schools, will be called upon to spend at least 67 minutes of their time doing something useful within their communities, especially among the less fortunate.

Mandela, who was the commander of the Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) (translated Spear of the Nation) , ANC military wing, hates poverty and his wish is to see children living in happiness and able to advance their ambitions for a better world.

The theme for this year's Nelson Mandela Day is "Working together to build a caring society".

This theme is a call to every individual to embrace the values of democracy and contribute towards the objectives of building a just and caring society.

"We have achieved a lot, but we must still work further to eradicate poverty and improve especially the lives of children, because Madiba loves them so much. Most importantly, we must spread love, ubuntu, humility and selflessness around us," President Zuma said, calling on people in South Africa to contribute positively in advancing Mandala's vision of a better world.

"Mr. Mandela is no longer merely a man, but a symbol. He represents the achievement of the seemingly impossible; he represents hope. In the midst of all we face as a nation, on international Nelson Mandela Day we celebrate hope, which has become both rare and indispensable. We cannot afford not to celebrate Nelson Mandela Day," opposition party Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, said in a statement Monday.

Source: Xinhua
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