COMMEMORATIVE EVENTS PLANNED FOR MANDELA’S CENTENARY
It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.
Those were the prophetic words of President Nelson Mandela whose role in the long struggle waged against the racist system of apartheid is recalled on the anniversary of his birth on July 18, 1918.
This year, the theme of the birthday Centenary is world peace. Events will take place worldwide to commemorate the former leader.
A “Nelson Mandela Peace Summit” will take place at the U.N. with speeches by top UN officials, the chair of the African Union Commission and member states.
In Johannesburg, the Mandela Concerts have pledged to raise money for literacy projects including 100 new library units for schools in South Africa and a digital library.
On July 17, former president Barack Obama will deliver the Nelson Mandela lecture, whose theme of renewing the Mandela legacy and promoting active citizenship in a changing world was developed after the passing of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Former Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes commented: “The choice of Mandela and South Africa are freighted with symbolism for Obama at a time when his political legacy is being dismantled by his successor, Donald Trump, who has crudely disparaged African countries.”
At press time, however, two South African organizations disputed the invite to Obama for “cultivating a new kind of colonialism in the name of the ‘War on Terror’, spreading fear, violence and destruction, in particular among Muslim communities, rubber-stamping over 100 military actions a day throughout Africa, and many more in the Middle East.”
“US foreign policy has left destruction, division and suffering in its wake, and led to the rise of violent groups,” said Feroze Boda, spokesperson for CAGE Africa – an organization that opposes the so-called War on Terror.
Palestine Solidarity Alliance spokesperson Naazim Adam also objected to the decision to invite Obama, recalling the thousands of civilian casualties in Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria that continued under Obama’s presidency.
Mandela Foundation chairperson Professor Njabulo Ndebele defended the decision to invite Obama, noting that Madiba had great respect for the first Black U.S. President.
“In an era defined by worsening tensions between people, in which the spectre of exclusion and intolerance across the world seems to become normalized, the messages of President Obama, like those of Madiba, must be given space,” Ndebele said.
“Furthermore, the foundation’s key focus areas, including the eradication of poverty and inequality and the dismantling of anti-black racism, are causes that are close to President Obama’s heart. His historic election as the first black president of the United States does have resonance in South Africa, as do many of his pro-poor policies, such as universal healthcare.”