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JOHANNESBURG - Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale on Wednesday said it was remarkable that the entire world was celebrating Nelson Mandela’s birthday.
Sexwale was speaking during an opening address at a seminar at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, Eastern Cape, the town where the former statesman will celebrate his 94th birthday.
Delegates sang “Happy Birthday” to Madiba before Sexwale took to the podium.
The minister said today was a day of goodwill and that the world had paused to pay tribute to Mandela.
He said the United Nations (UN) in 2009 declared 18 July International Nelson Mandela Day so that generations to come could celebrate Madiba, his life, struggle and legacy.
Delegates attending the colloquium will tour Mandela’s home village and help community members as part of their 67 minutes of goodwill for the less fortunate.
Sexwale said Mandela was a living legend and that South Africans should live up to his example of leadership.
He said the struggle veteran was the nation’s unifier and that citizens should be proud to come from the same country.
“We as South Africans should consider and count ourselves the luckiest people on this plant at this moment to (be able to) live in the same country, breathe-in the same air, under the same sky, the same beautiful sun today with Nelson Mandela.”
Madiba has become a global archive whose philosophy can be summarised as “Mandelaism” - the spirit of selflessness sacrifice.
Earlier in the day a group of inmates from Umtata prison arrived at the Qunu Junior Secondary School - where the world icon attended school as a young boy.
Inmates mowed the lawn and picked up litter at the school as part of their 67 minutes of charity. They also danced in traditional attire for schoolchildren.
Meanwhile, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane is spending her 67 minutes of community service at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg.
She is expected to unveil a new pediatric wing at the hospital.
The Soweto hospital has been beset with problems that include a lack of resources and stories of poor patient treatment.
But a shiny new plaque next to ward 32, which was revealed on Wednesday, declared the establishment of a new pediatric unit.
The unit will be named the Mandela Pediatric Centre of Knowledge.
Mokonyane, accompanied by new Gauteng Health MEC Hope Papo, will inspect the handiwork of volunteers varnishing new playground equipment in the garden there and then cut a cake for Madiba.
Gauteng officials will also hand fluffy toys to sick children in the neighbouring ward.
In Soweto, several hundred children from Batsogile Primary School in Pimville raised their voices in song - alongside Deputy Minister of Basic Education Enver Surty and Miss South Africa Melinda Bam.
Students and dignitaries will spend the rest of the day painting fences and planting trees, as part of a campaign to upgrade schools in honour of Mandela Day and Tata’s commitment to education.
Meanwhile, Mandela Day initiatives were in full swing at the Alexandra Secondary School in northern Johannesburg.
Lead SA and Johannesburg City Parks partnered to donate 67 minutes to the community.
Pupils from the school received a vegetable garden sponsored by both Lead SA and Johannesburg City Parks.
Other initiatives include a donation of office furniture for the school which was donated by Nashua North East as their existing furniture was damaged and old.
The school pupils gathered to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Madiba and Breakfast Express’ Bongani Nxumalo read the Bill of Rights to the learners.
(Edited by Thato Motaung)