‘Madiba is smil­ing’

CityPress - - News - AVANTIKA SEETH avantika.seeth@city­press.co.za

“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

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