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Let's truly be Madiba's legacy and build a future that lives beyond our lifetimes

Nelson Mandela, who would be turning 100 years old tomorrow, said 'Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice.' / Pierre Oosthysen
Nelson Mandela, who would be turning 100 years old tomorrow, said 'Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice.' / Pierre Oosthysen

It's July once again and across the globe we remember a son of the South African soil and one of the greatest men to have lived in our time - our very own Nelson Mandela.

July 18 2018 marks 100 years since this selfless leader was born in the rural village of Mvezo in Eastern Cape. However, despite international adulation, much of the discourse in South Africa on the legacy of Madiba over this centenary year has been on contesting his legacy.

Much of this stems from the lived experience of ordinary South Africans stuck in intergenerational cycles of poverty and experiences with entrenched racism.

Despite undeniable progress and the many milestones achieved, 28 years since our legendary leader walked out of prison a free man and 24 since his dream that all South Africans can vote was realised, Madiba's dream of seeing every child fed and educated with a life of opportunity ahead, is far from being realised.

Tomorrow, we honour Madiba as per his request, to dedicate this day to public service. In keeping with this request, some of us will lend a hand fixing a school, feeding the hungry or taking on other tasks. In whatever way we can, we will try to make someone's life a little easier.

While we applaud efforts big and small to take action during this centenary year, should we also not celebrate his legacy by evaluating the projects we have put together in his name and work towards sustainability? Shouldn't we look within ourselves and try to understand our own privilege? Should we not look at the political, economic and social conditions and engage with meaningful transformation? And, should we not dedicate ourselves to building our own legacies that last beyond our own lives?

Perhaps the time has now come for us, as active citizens, to look into ourselves for some of the answers. Maybe as individuals and corporates, we could, for example, plough resources available to us into self-sustaining initiatives that work towards eradicating the evils of unemployment and poverty or to use this year to critically evaluate how institutional racism exists in our companies.

Despite the enormity of these challenges, a journey of a thousand miles begins with only a step.

Our democracy too was once seen as an impossible ideal. It took a few individuals to believe and commit themselves and the ideals of equality and democracy spread like wildfire.

If we are to take anything positive from our past, perhaps we should be looking at the seemingly insurmountable odds great leaders like Madiba overcame to help us achieve what we now have and enjoy. Perhaps we should also learn from these men and women of courage that working as a collective with the same purpose can take our country to great heights.

May I plead that while planning our Mandela Day activism, we cast our eyes into the future and think of ways to invest more into areas like social justice, education and early childhood development and cast the net a bit wider so that a few more young South Africans, the future of this country, benefit.

We should heed Madiba's words when he stated, "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life."

The great man himself is not with us to celebrate his 100th birthday; but can we, in his name, build legacies that will survive beyond 10 decades. That way we can proudly say we are his legacy.

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