Madiba’s legacy: A note from Por­tu­gal

CityPress - - Voices - Pe­dro Pas­sos Coelho voices@city­

When the great­est po­lit­i­cal icon of our gen­er­a­tion, Nel­son Man­dela, passed away three years ago this week, I was deeply shocked. The world had lost a lead­ing ad­vo­cate for democ­racy and hu­man rights, his coun­try a much-beloved states­man, and his fam­ily a lov­ing and wise guardian.

Kei­tumetse Matthews, South Africa’s am­bas­sador to Por­tu­gal, has chal­lenged me and the Por­tuguese peo­ple to help fur­ther Man­dela’s legacy in my own coun­try and be­yond. By way of mo­ti­va­tion, she re­minded me that Madiba’s legacy is im­por­tant for all those who yearn for a more just, peace­ful and pros­per­ous world, not just for the peo­ple of South Africa. She re­minded me that it is not enough to just yearn for those things. What Man­dela taught us was that they re­quire ac­tion.

Man­dela be­lieved that it is our acts of kind­ness that al­low us to grow and de­velop as hu­man be­ings. No act is too small, be it vis­it­ing a lonely el­derly per­son to have a chat, of­fer­ing to shop for a home-bound carer, or as­sist­ing a per­son with a dis­abil­ity. In­deed, small acts have big re­sults for the re­cip­i­ent, the fam­ily and the com­mu­nity.

He taught us that a per­son is only a per­son be­cause of other peo­ple.

This be­lief res­onates with my own views on the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity and vol­un­teer work, and so, when Matthews started the di­a­logue with my of­fice on how to cel­e­brate In­ter­na­tional Man­dela Day in Por­tu­gal, it was a nat­u­ral meet­ing of minds.

We started slowly, build­ing on ex­ist­ing work with the South African em­bassy to recog­nise and sup­port the work of a lo­cal con­vent that pro­vides food for the home­less. The way in which all in­volved gen­uinely em­braced the name Man­dela con­vinced us of his en­dur­ing legacy.

The Por­tuguese peo­ple have ac­tively sought to fur­ther Man­dela’s legacy.

Not con­tent with the 67 min­utes of com­mu­nity ac­tion dur­ing his an­nual birth­day cel­e­bra­tions, in March 2011 Nel­son Man­dela launched “Man­dela Mon­days” to en­cour­age more con­sis­tent vol­un­tary ac­tion, ev­ery week of the year.

In May 2011, Por­tu­gal was the first coun­try out­side South Africa to em­brace this im­por­tant ini­tia­tive. It was launched in Lis­bon and the Olympic judo cham­pion Nuno Del­gado was cho­sen by the Nel­son Man­dela Foun­da­tion as a Man­dela Am­bas­sador in sport.

In July 2013, the Nel­son Man­dela Foun­da­tion’s Cen­tre of Di­a­logue for Jus­tice helped or­gan­ise a con­fer­ence in the Por­tuguese city of Se­tubal that em­pow­ered so­cially dis­ad­van­taged young peo­ple to re­solve prob­lems they faced through di­a­logue and me­di­a­tion.

An ad­di­tional con­fer­ence out­come was a draft con­flict res­o­lu­tion pro­to­col sup­ported by com­mu­nity, labour and youth or­gan­i­sa­tions.

On Fri­day, the Nel­son Man­dela Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal be­came a re­al­ity when the newly built hos­pi­tal opened its doors in Jo­han­nes­burg. It is par­tic­u­larly grat­i­fy­ing to know that the Por­tuguese peo­ple also con­trib­uted gen­er­ously through their do­na­tions to this great cause.

Of course, much more needs to be done to fur­ther Madiba’s legacy through mean­ing­ful di­a­logue and per­sonal ac­tion for change.

All of which is why Por­tu­gal wants to play its role not only in en­sur­ing that the Man­dela legacy lives on in the way he would have wanted, but also as­pires to be­come a key pro­moter of his legacy.

Pas­sos Coelho is the for­mer prime min­is­ter of Por­tu­gal and leader of the

PSD party

TALK TO US What do you think or­di­nary peo­ple can do to fur­ther Madiba’s legacy and im­prove other peo­ple’s lives?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word MAN­DELA and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

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