IOnce a year, on the 18th of July, South Africans across the Rainbow Nation come together to do something beautiful. They donate 67 minutes of their time to a worthwhile community project in honour of our late great global icon, Nelson Mandela. But how much of this is a waste of time? n 2008, at his 90th birthday celebrations in Hyde Park in London, Mandela inspired the idea of Mandela Day when he said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.” The Nelson Mandela Foundation then issued the challenge: “Mr Mandela has spent 67 years making the world a better place. We’re asking you for 67 minutes.” And now, every year, thousands of people volunteer just 67 minutes of their time to make the world a better place. It’s a huge inspiration, but it’s also a huge waste of time.
Let me tell what I did last Mandela Day. I have young kids, so I wanted to choose a project that would give them a sense of the relative privilege that they enjoy so that they take it less for granted. One of the local underprivileged schools was actively seeking volunteers for a number of projects and we enthusiastically signed up. The school had recently received a donation of a few tins of paint, and we were assigned the task of painting a fence around the play area.
We did a good job, I think. Well, to be honest, it could have been better. For starters, my young daughter thought it would be much more fun to paint daddy’s