Retail giant Pick n Pay has teamed up with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to start a book drive as part of their tribute to the former statesman ahead of his 94th birthday. The launch of the Mandela Day book drive was held in Kensington, Johannesburg, on 28 June.
Nelson Mandela International Day is celebrated annually on 18 July across the world, after it was proclaimed in 2009 by the UN as an occasion to celebrate Mandela’s life.
The book drive started on 1 July and will continue until the 17th , and Pick n Pay has set up book stands in their stores where members of the public can drop off books that they are donating as part of the campaign.
The books will be handed over to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory on 18 July, after which they will be distributed to underprivileged schools around the country. People are encouraged to give books that are suitable for children of school-going age, as these will help set up libraries for them.
‘Donate a book and build a future’
The Mandela Day container library initiative is linked to the 94+ Schools infrastructure project - an initiative that honours his 94th birthday and legacy by promoting education, particularly for underprivileged schools.
“Books open a door to a whole new world – through reading, children not only improve their grammar and vocabulary but also learn about people and places from other parts of the world,” said Bronwen Rohland, Pick n Pay’s director of marketing and sustainability, at the launch of the campaign.
She added that books improve the understanding of and concern for all people, stressing how important it is for all children have access to books from a young age.
“It is a privilege for Pick n Pay to be working together with the Nelson Mandela Foundation – let us not forget that Mr Mandela has spoken about how reading sustained and kept him and his fellow prisoners up to date with the rest of the world while they were imprisoned on Robben Island.”
From the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory’s perspective, the campaign is seen as a move that should inspire more companies to do the same as Pick n Pay.
“Just as we encourage youth to actively participate in Mandela Day, we also acknowledge the importance of literacy at a young age,” said Sello Hatang, spokesperson for the centre.
“Just think, if every child could read, what power it would give to people and communities the world over. We would like to thank Pick n Pay for helping us drive more books to disadvantaged schools.”
Hatang also had advice for donors: “If in doubt about what to donate, focus on story books you loved or that you know appeal to children.”
Pupils to benefit
Many South African schools lack basic facilities that are needed to make a library functional, and the container library project, a long-running initiative of Breadline Africa, aims to help solve this problem by providing nine container libraries.
Although the target for 2012 was 20 containers, Hatang said through the initiative they had managed to secure funding for 10 containers so far.
An estimated 9 500 pupils in the some of the country’s poorest communities will benefit. For many of these schools, this will be the first time they will have access to a fully functioning library at their place of learning.
Mandela once said: “That joy (of reading) has been mine all my life, and it is one I wish for all South Africans.”
The book drive will see to it that children from poor communities too can experience that same joy of reading.
Running in his honour
While the subject of books reigned supreme in one province, in another, KwaZulu-Natal’s uMgungundlovu district municipality announced that it would host the Mandela Day Marathon to mark the 50th anniversary of Mandela’s arrest in the Midlands town of Howick in 1962.
The inaugural 42.2km run will start in Pietermaritzburg, and will take place on 26 August 2012, and if the municipality has its way, will feature as a major event on the national and international calendars going forward.
Mandela, then an active leader of Umkhonto weSizwe, the African National Congress’s (ANC) armed wing, was arrested on 5 August 1962 after being on the run from the police for over a year. The famous treason trial followed shortly afterwards, when several more of the ANC leaders had been rounded up by police officers around the country and charged.
He was sentenced to life in prison in 1964, but spent 27 years behind bars before leading the ANC through negotiations with the then-ruling National Party, and subsequently becoming South Africa’s first democratically elected president after an all-inclusive election in 1994.
The marathon will commence directly outside Manaye Hall in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg, where on 25 March 1961 Madiba gave his last speech prior to being captured on the road to Tweedie (a farm area in Howick) in August of the following year.
“The marathon reflects, in a symbolic way, the gruelling marathon that Nelson Mandela had to run to lay the foundation for the democratic and free South Africa that we currently enjoy,” said uMgungundlovu mayor Yusuf Bhamjee.
Runners will climb 540m during the first 15km before reaching the halfway point near Hilton and going on to the less challenging second half, which will take them through Cedara, Merrivale and into Howick to pass the Anglo-Boer war memorial.
An associated 10km event will commence from this point and both races will continue out to pass Midmar Dam and thence to the new capture site museum in Tweedie.
Reflecting on Mandela’s struggles
The race is less about fast times and more about recognising and commemorating and gaining insight of the challenges and struggles that Madiba took on in the fight for freedom.
“Through this marathon, we want to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, the discipline that meant spending 27 years in prison, because of an understanding of what he wanted to accomplish in the end,” said Bhamjee.
He added that there was no better way to remember, honour and celebrate Mandela's selflessness to the betterment of the entire world than to have this marathon, which is a qualifier for both the Comrades and Two Oceans marathons.
Bhamjee explained that Mandela had a long history, not just with Pietermaritzburg, but with the district as a whole.
The district manager for uMngungundlovu, Sbu Khuzwayo, said the city had made R1.5-million (US$181 350) available for the race and, of that amount, R253,000 ($30 600) was for prizes.
Entries for the race, which are expected to be limited because this is the first event, will open on 18 July and close on 14 August.