Madiba left footprints in NC

On 1 August, the first day of Women’s Month, the McGregor Museum in Kimberley launched the Nelson Mandela’s Footprints in the Northern Cape exhibition.

This was done in partnership with the Northern Cape Tourism Authority (NCTA).

Highlighting the work that Mandela had done in the Northern Cape, Patric Mabilo, a portfolio committee member, praised the late former president for his role in weighing arguments and making decisions.

Mabilo acted on behalf Mac Jack, the Northern Cape MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism.

“Mandela had moved from the role of a meddler within the organisation to one of the powers that he had been rebelling against when he still was a member of the Youth League,” Mabilo said.

“In some ways, it was easier for him to be a rebel, as then he was without responsibility.

“But as a member of the executive committee, during the announcement of the Defiance Campaign on 31 May 1952, Mandela was appointed as national volunteer-in-chief of the campaign and also as chairman of both the action committee and the volunteer board.

“Mandela’s responsibilities were to organise the campaign, co-ordinate the regional branches, canvass for volunteers – and to raise funds.”

This role is the one that led Mandela to make regular visits to Kimberley, where he usually stayed over at the Letele family home.

“During this period, Dr Arthur Letele, his wife Mary and many others were actively involved in the local Defiance Campaign. The campaign resulted in 14 people being massacred and scores of others injured in Number Two Location by the municipal police on 8 November of the same year.”

After his release from prison in 1990, Mandela visited Kimberley as the president of the ANC, when he was hosted by the Packirisamy family. He also stayed here before addressing a huge crowd at the Galeshewe Stadium and business people at the local Protea Hotel.

Mandela paid numerous visits to the Northern Cape during his term as the president of the country, in which he provided some hope to the people of the province. The Northern Cape is a province struggling with unemployment, alcohol abuse, child-molestation, poverty and violence.

Mandela challenged the business community to assist the Department of Education and the Department of Health in building schools and clinics in the province.

In one of the support-seeking visits to the business sector, Mandela said: “I come to you, not as president of the country, but as a simple old man who wants to sleep for eternity with a broad smile across my face.

“I asked these people to build clinics and schools for the poorest of the poor.”

In the Frances Baard District, through the initiatives of Mandela, businesses assisted in the building of the !Xunkhwesa School in Platfontein, the Rolihlahla Primary School in Ikhutseng, a school in Warrenton and the Reaipela Primary School in Maphoitsile.

Mabilo pointed out that for every adult at any of Madiba’s public gatherings, there were always two children.

Children were those who held the key to his heart and they knew it imme­diately, irrespective of whether they were toddlers or teenagers. He also said it was an experience for children to shake Madiba’s hand or merely touch him or catch a glimpse of him.

One of the most cherished days of the Northern Cape remains the 1998 May Day Celebrations at the Galeshewe Stadium, when Mandela delivered the keynote address according to the theme, “Save our jobs, create more jobs”.

He was quoted as saying that without the efforts of workers and trade union participation, government efforts to become more productive would not succeed.

In his continuous quest for reconciliation, Mandela visited the widow of Dr Hendrik Verwoerd in Orania.

He also visited Prieska, where he met with local marathon runner Gert Thys.

In November 1999, Mandela, accompanied by international model Naomi Campbell, invited more than a 1 000 children from all over South Africa and of all walks of life to converge on the rugby field in Postmasburg to attend Madiba’s belated birthday celebration.

The event provided the children with hours of entertainment.

His short, simple and clear message on that day was that the children should go to school, listen to their parents and teachers, and stay away from drugs.

Mandela challenged communities to instill in themselves a new sense of worth and to cherish their right to aspire to the highest of their abilities.

This visit was followed by the opening of the Deben Primary School and hostel in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District. The school was built to bridge the great distances that children had to travel from more than 16 neighbouring farms.

The school premises was completed in 1996 and the hostel in 2002.

Mandela’s visit to Upington was characterised by a donkey cart ride and visits to Buffelsrivier and Riemvasmaak in the Namaqua Region.