‘Madiba is smiling’
“He shared a third of his salary from his pocket and challenged his friends to match this by donating towards the hospital,” Graça Machel said about her late husband on Friday at the official opening of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Parktown, northern Johannesburg.
The event was symbolically staged to set the tone ahead of the anniversary of the struggle icon’s death tomorrow. Madiba died on December 5 2013.
Mandela, who was the first president of South Africa to be elected in a fully representative democratic election died at the age of 95.
Machel implored people to prioritise children just as Mandela had done. The late statesman used a third of his salary to support the fund.
“He also rallied his friends to contribute and even challenged them to match his own contribution. Without the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, we would not have this hospital.”
She said Madiba had a fondness for children and had established the fund in an effort to change the way society treats its children and the youth.
“Madiba’s life inspired us to overcome all boundaries. As we honour Madiba today, we also honour the fund and the trust of the hospital, which I am honoured to serve,” she said.
Machel is the chairperson of the hospital’s trust.
She said the hospital should not just be an elite healthcare facility that carries the late statesman’s name, but should set new standards for what a children’s hospital can achieve.
“This is about raising the bar and having a example on what every paediatric ward and what every single children’s hospital can achieve. It is for South Africa to have a model hospital, and this should not be a facility for the elite … On the contrary, it is to show the journey we all have to achieve,” Machel said.
“When we say children first, we really mean it. Children deserve the very best a society can provide … and Madiba said to us: ‘Every society will be judged according to the way it treats its children.’”
She said every worker at the hospital had been trained on how to look after children.
“Every cleaner, every security guard has been trained to know this is a place for children.”
Machel said the trust would ensure that the hospital did not reach a state where it could not receive children because there were no resources available.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said: “I am sure that wherever Madiba is, he is looking down and smiling.”
He described the hospital as Madiba’s longstanding vision that had come to fruition due to the partnership between the health department, civic organisations and foundations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Islamic Relief Worldwide, which were instrumental in funding the hospital.
He also raised the issue of the lack of access to quality healthcare, saying it was still a growing concern globally.
Sibongile Mkhabela, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, said the hospital was finalising the equipment commissioning phase and recruitment processes. Then it would be testing the business processes and systems.
“When we are satisfied that the first patient can be safely admitted, we will begin accepting patients, mainly for dialysis and radiology treatment,” she said.
The hospital is a product of 11 years of hard work, which was spearheaded by Mkhabela, who oversaw the business case development and the feasibility study, as well as the design, construction and commissioning of the hospital.
TRIBUTE Nelson Mandela was a strong advocate for providing treatment for children