Father of SA still an iconic figure

Today marks 102 years since Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s birth in the village of Mvezo, on the banks of the Mbashe River, near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape – and his name still reverberates around the world.

It’s also six years, seven months and 14 days since his death on 5 December, 2013 and nearly 11 years since the United Nations designated 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day, in November 2009, by spending 67 minutes in service of others – and fighting for social justice. After all this time, the day remains as relevant as ever, said political analyst Ralph Mathekga.

“I initially wanted to say it’s not relevant, we have more issues, but to be honest I think we are in trouble in society,” Mathekga said.

He suggested instead of looking at Mandela Day as any other day, one could use it to reflect on relationships and find a way to establish human connections and solidarity. Mathekga said South Africa was struggling to find champions.

“We should latch on to Mandela to reground ourselves,” he said. “And to those who say he is a sellout, I say to them: he sold his soul so well, they are able to speak so freely today.”

In 1957, then American senator John F Kennedy said: “What unites us is greater than what divides us.”

Coupled with “it is better to give than to receive”, there is a way out of the lockdown miasma. Dr Nompumelelo Ntshingila is a senior lecturer of psychiatric nursing in the department of nursing science at the University of Johannesburg.

She said: “Covid-19 has really brought about challenges for people and it’s quite important we take care of our mental health as much as we are taking care of our physical health at this time. It is important we accept the situation, which is our new normal. We can’t control the laws being handed down but we can control how we adapt to the situation…”

Also read: Honour Madiba on his birthday

Looking at the positives and taking one’s mind off oneself by helping others was one way to tackle mental health issues, she said.

“As much as you are self-isolated, it doesn’t mean you can’t do things for other people.”

The theme of today – take action, inspire change and make every day Mandela Day – can become part of taking care of one’s mental health, Ntshingila said.

She suggested decluttering one’s home and donating the unwanted goods to a charity: “That act of giving would then also make someone else feel good. Look at cooking a meal and give it to some at the robot.

“It’s important to do things which ground you, keep you calm and surround yourself with positive thinking.”


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