Focus on poverty in South Africa urged on Mandela Day


A South African lawyer on Monday appealed to the world and corporate donors to come and assist thousands of poor people who are struggling to survive in his country.

“Nelson Mandela International Day is very important to most people in South Africa and the continent, but I think the focus is not clearly directed at assisting poor people,” Thulani Simelane told Anadolu Agency at the Ikageng children’s center in Soweto township.

In 2009 the UN designated July 18 International Nelson Mandela Day to celebrate the legendary civil rights leader’s birthday and also to commemorate the fight against racism and apartheid.

To honor Mandela and his selfless contribution to humanity, every year South Africans from all walks of life dedicated 67 minutes of their time to volunteer for good causes. The 67 minutes given to help the less fortunate is a tribute to the number of years Mandela spent in public service.

Simelane said people come to communities and offer 67 minutes to serve their communities but the real focus is not on fighting poverty, which he says is rife in South Africa.

He appealed to the international community and corporations to come and assist South Africans struggling with poverty. Simelane said there are many including child-headed homes who do not know where their next meal comes from.

“Whatever support we get from our government cannot measure up the plight of the poor. It’s bad for us to pretend that the country is good, and people are okay,” he said.

Impact of minority rule persists

Though endowed with mineral resources, South Africa is still struggling to reverse the impact of decades of white minority rule. It has high numbers of unemployed people.

He said South Africans should not be shy about discussing the poverty in their communities. “People are poor in South Africa, specifically Soweto. I have lived most of my life here. I’m talking about what I know. I invite the world to come to Kliptown and see for themselves – the type of conditions people live in there,” he said.

Iqbal Jassat, an executive member of the Media Review Network, said: “South Africa today is gripped in fear, with criminals running rampant, giving rise to perceptions about the ruling African National Congress’s failure to govern.”

Jassat said this is compounded by shocking levels of poverty, joblessness, homelessness, and a host of social iniquities.

He said unless Mandela Day reconnects with the ideals of Mandela’s struggle for freedom, South Africa will fail to honor his legacy.

“Unfortunately, Mandela Day has been appropriated by many for various reasons, including commercials. Sadly, it reflects the shift away from Mandela’s enormous legacy of struggle.”

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