Changing the lives of people on Mandela Day is a critical step in preserving his legacy
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By Hlulani Mashaba, Acting Deputy Director: Media Relations, Gauteng Department of Community Safety
It is over seven years since the death of the first democratically elected and renowned President, Nelson Mandela. South Africans are geared up to spend sixty-seven minutes of their day giving back to their respective communities on Sunday, 18 July 2021. This is an opportune moment to heed the call for people to recognize their individual power to make an imprint and change the world around them.
Mandela Day will be celebrated under very difficult conditions that have been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in social and economic challenges while exacerbating old ones. Food insecurity has come under the spotlight in the past few days following mayhem that engulfed some parts of the country. To make matters worse, the country is on the verge of celebrating Mandela Day in a week characterised by widespread violence and looting in many parts of the country.
While the protests started as an outpouring anger due to the incarceration of Former President, Jacob Zuma last week at Escort Correctional Centre in Kwazulu-Natal, the activities have resulted in threats of violence, intimidation, theft and looting of businesses in many parts of the country, but Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng were mostly affected.
The former Statesman was detained for contempt of court after he failed to appear at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture. This moment in history together with the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in major loss of lives, exposed the fragility of health systems, aggravated food insecurity and stretched to the limit the law enforcement agencies in creating safer spaces for many communities. Many parts of the country experienced destruction of properties and large-scale business lootings during a time when the economy is recovering from the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. There is no anger that justifies the destruction of properties and lootings.
Twenty-seven years into democracy, it is evident that the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality has reached crisis point. Many people still go to bed hungry and do not know where their next meal will come from.
According to Ipsos, “Almost half (46%) of adult South Africans surveyed in late 2020 said that their households often had to go to bed hungry during the Covid-19 pandemic as we did not have enough money for food”.
Many of our people live in poor conditions, therefore a paradigm shift is needed to change the status quo. While we are optimistic that the situation will improve, everyone is called upon to make a difference by making everyday a Mandela Day by reaching out to the most destitute especially during these challenging times. Government and the private sector have a role to play in ensuring that employment opportunities on a larger scale are created.
According to Statistics South Africa, Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the official unemployment rate was 32,6% in the first quarter of 2021. The results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2021 show that the number of employed persons remained almost unchanged at 15,0 million (a slight decrease of 28 000) in the first of quarter 2021. The number of unemployed persons also remained almost unchanged at 7,2 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2020 (increased by 8 000). The official unemployment rate among youth (15-34 years) was 46,3% in Quarter 1 2021. The rate was 9,3% among university graduates.
These are worrying statistics by any stretch of imagination. It is concerning that many young people who are educated are left idling in their respective homes without any job. With the current situation unfolding in many parts of the country, it is highly likely that many jobs will be lost because of the widespread looting and destruction of business properties. Even though the situation looks gloomy, it is important that our communities behave in a manner that is consistent with South Africa as a peace-loving nation.
The Gauteng Department of Community Safety will continue to rise to the occasion and follow the clarion call to take action, inspire change, making every day a Mandela Day as they did for the past 12 years. The Each1Feed1 programme will continue in Sedibeng region as part of preserving the legacy of taking #ActionAgainstPoverty. The Department will visit orphanage homes, organisations for people with disabilities and child headed households in Sedibeng as part of the goodwill initiative.
The Department is cognizant of the that a global movement for positive change begins with small actions. This is an important step towards expanding the reach of Mandela’s values, fighting injustice, helping people in need and practicing reconciliation. It is extremely critical at this point that as a nation we continue to live up to the principles that Nelson Mandela has set and rally everybody and all sectors of our society to meaningfully contribute towards this noble call.
I encourage Gauteng citizens to emulate the good deeds of Nelson Mandela by playing their part during Mandela day through partnerships for effective, sustainable, and collaborative interventions. By so doing, we will be making a change and creating a better tomorrow for all of us.
As we embark on doing goodwill and helping the less fortunate, I urge Gauteng citizens to become safety ambassadors in their respective spaces. Our communities can do so by joining volunteer structures in their neighbourhoods such as Men As Safety Promoters, Women As Safety Promoters, Youth Crime Prevention Desk, Elderly Desk and Community Police Forums amongst others. The need to create safety and help the most vulnerable, women and children has reached critical point.
The Department will continue with the programme of uplift communities by helping the most vulnerable to preserve the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Just as Mandela said, “A Nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but it’s lowest ones”. Let us embrace the opportunity to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s legacy, as it gives everyone the opportunity to make an imprint and change the lives of others.