Nelson Mandela Day 2021 – A tribute

Nelson Mandela Day 2021 – A tribute

18th July 2021 marks the 103rd birth anniversary of the former South African president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and the day is observed worldwide every year as Nelson Mandela International Day since 2010. Nelson Mandela is celebrated around the world for his strong advocacy of democracy and social equality but most notably, he is remembered for his vehement fight against the racist South African system of apartheid. He served as the president from 1994 to 1999 and for his extensive work on social reform, Mandela received over 250 honours and in 1993, was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.

The day is meant to remember the services of Mr Mandela and honour them through volunteer work, awareness and community service. Mr Mandela believed in equality and the need for people to come together and help each other rise above social class and colour. This day is viewed as an opportunity to renew the values left behind by Mr Mandela. On this day several concerts, art exhibits and fundraising volunteer events take place. In 2014 the United Nations General Assembly introduced the Nelson Mandela prize to recognise the achievements of those who dedicated their lives to the service of humanity, much like he had in his lifetime.
It is worthwhile to mention Mandela’s relationship with Mahatma Gandhi because both leaders shared similarities in more ways than one. Nelson Mandela was a practitioner of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha/Truth Force, passive resistance and Ahimsa/non-violence. Mandela referred to Gandhiji as his role model and was inspired by Gandhiji to lead South Africa’s journey to independence, and was sometimes referred to as the ‘Gandhi of South Africa’. While Mandela and Gandhiji never met, both were linked by a passion to end oppression and bring about change and took up the cause of their respective colonised countries and their subjugated people, inspiring them to resist oppression. Gandhiji’s philosophy and approach left an indelible mark on Mandela and it shaped his sociopolitical journey in South Africa. Though, we cannot really compare Mandela and Gandhiji, some of the similarities in the two leaders include Gandhiji’s emphasis on moral power being a force to reckon with and Mandela too believing in the power of moral uprightness; both were lawyers who spent time in jail in Johannesburg’s Old Fort prison (Gandhiji in 1906 and Mandela in 1962). Mandela and Gandhiji shared the conviction that all suppressed people, whatever their religion, ethnicity, caste or color, must stand together against their oppressors.
Since its inception in 2010, Nelson Mandela International Day has been celebrated with a theme for that particular year. The theme for this year is “One Hand Can Feed Another”.