Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Are you giving 67 minutes of your time to make a difference today? Social media is abuzz with what ordinary South Africans are doing to mark Nelson Mandela Day. Learners, businesses, NGOs and celebrities are sharing their inspirational ideas of how we can serve on 18 July 2014.
My own 67 minutes will be spent in Umlazi at the Zakheleni informal settlement, next to Umlazi Comtech. The community of Zakheleni, like so many communities in our country, lives in distressing conditions. The IFP intends to visit, not just to shake hands and sympathise, but to get to work cleaning up the streets of Zakheleni.
This is a small gesture, but it is symbolic, for we want to restore to the community a sense of dignity and self-worth. We want to let them know that they are valuable citizens, deserving of a helping hand, and deserving something better than the squalor of scattered refuse.
I want to thank every South African, and every individual across the world, who is participating in 67 minutes of service. What each one of us can do is perhaps small, taken by itself. But what we accomplish collectively, through this shared effort, will make a significant difference.
It takes only one person to help one person. I encourage you to think back to a time when you were in need, experiencing hardship or dealing with illness. Think how lonely it was, and what a difference it made when just one person took the time to say a kind word, or offer a helping hand.
There is a reason we live in community. We all need a support structure, just as we all need to be part of the support structure of those around us.
Often when we think of 67 Minutes, we think outside our own community. We think of supporting established NGOs and of national causes, like the fight to save our rhino. This is good, and I agree with those who always say, at this time of year, that we should really do 67 Minutes for 1440 minutes each day.
But I don’t think that sentiment should be used to denigrate the many small acts of service that are made during 67 Minutes. Rather, I believe we should commit to consistent support for established NGOs and national causes, as part of our regular giving towards social responsibility.
67 Minutes should inspire us to look closer to home. Because selflessness is really about consciously putting aside our own needs and concerns, in order to actually see the needs of others. How often do we miss an opportunity to meet a need, simply because we were too busy or preoccupied to notice that the need existed?
I want to challenge us all to open our eyes and our ears, to notice the needs in our own community and our own sphere of influence. Whether it’s the person sleeping under the bridge a few blocks from your house, or the unemployed youth hanging around the local spaza, or the single mother sitting at the back of your church; you can make a difference to their lives. You may not be able to build a house or offer fulltime employment, but you might be able to provide a meal, or impart a skill, or open a door that they can’t open themselves. And certainly, you can listen. We can all make the time for people who need to talk, if we start from the belief that every person is equal.
We often hear that Nelson Mandela accorded everyone equal dignity; that he was as pleasant to his tea lady as he was to Heads of State. These anecdotes have entered the collective memory. For me, the celebration of Nelson Mandela Day raises personal memories of Madiba, for we shared a life-long friendship that weathered tremendous political storms.
Just this week I was interviewed on Gagasi FM and the presenter announced that I would be surprised by a quote he had come across from Nelson Mandela.
He proceeded to quote words that I am all too familiar with, which Mandela spoke about me in April 2002 – “We have used every ammunition to destroy him, and we failed. And he is still there. He is a formidable survivor. We cannot ignore him.”
Mandela’s party may have done everything in their power to destroy me, but Mandela himself, when I celebrated my 80th birthday, reminisced fondly of those days in the fifties when he played draughts with my father-in-law at the Eloff Street Compound, teasing my wife when she brought him tea.
We remained friends, even through the harrowing time of the ANC’s People’s War, which claimed some 20000 black lives. Our friendship was founded on a shared vision for our country. Despite at times disagreeing on how to achieve it, we agreed on what we wanted South Africa to become.
I was therefore not surprised, though I was tremendously gratified, when former President Mandela took the bold step of announcing in public that his son had lost the battle to HIV/Aids. Just months before that, in 2004, I had broken the silence on HIV/Aids at the funeral of my own son. As leaders, we understood our responsibility of removing the stigma that allowed ignorance to claim lives.
The walls of silence were finally penetrated and people started speaking about what caused Aids, how to prevent HIV transmission, where to get tested, how to live more responsibly and what to do for the millions of people already suffering from this disease. Information proved to be the tool that slowed the terrible onslaught of infection.
It was a balm to my soul when my friends, John and Anna Moshal, through the Moshal Family Trust, created the “Prince Nelisuzulu Benedict Gift Fund” in memory of my son. Through this Fund, their daughter, Dr Karyn Moshal, founded the Children with HIV Association, known as CHIVA.
Last night, I had the privilege of attending the 10th anniversary celebrations of CHIVA, where I thanked Dr Moshal for all she has done to extend the lives of vulnerable children in KwaZulu Natal.
CHIVA is a remarkable organisation. It supports medical practitioners and caregivers in South Africa through training and mentorship by doctors, psychologists, pharmacists and dieticians from the United Kingdom, who come to South Africa as volunteers, specifically to bolster our fight against HIV/Aids. Over 10 years, they have trained 19 000 healthcare workers.
CHIVA is the kind of organisation I would encourage you to support on a consistent and regular basis. Make it part of your regular sowing into social responsibility. During 67 Minutes, let organisations like CHIVA inspire you to look closer to home and to notice the needs in your own community. People living with HIV/Aids need support. And it only takes one to help one.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Lyndith Waller on 073 929 1418