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AS the one-month countdown to International Nelson Mandela Day kicked off yesterday, the video of the special birthday song for the world icon was released.
Mandela turns 94 on 18 July. Every year, his birthday is celebrated around the world and the date was officially declared by the UN in 2009 as an internationally recognised commemorative date. “The countdown has started – there is one month to go,” said Yusuf Abramjee, of the Lead SA social movement, at the launch at the Nelson Mandela Foundation offices in Johannesburg.

Last year, Lead SA, the Department of Basic Education and the foundation garnered the support of South Africans to sing to Mandela on his big day. This year, they decided to go bigger by encouraging the whole world to participate in the singing – which is to be done simultaneously, at 8am South African time on 18 July.

On 29 May, hundreds of people, among them TV, radio and sports personalities, gathered in Sandton for the recording of the song. Also present were Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga; Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the minister of home affairs; and Anitha Soni, trustee of the board of directors at Brand South Africa.

Lead SA, the department and the foundation, supported by the Shout Foundation, Proudly South African and Brand South Africa, partnered to get the momentum going for the world to sing the song and engage in 67 minutes of community service.

Vodacom also donated its infrastructure to provide a platform for people to download the song. SMS the word “Madiba” to 44009 and an SMS will be sent back to your phone with the link to download the song. “We are exploring the possibility of breaking a social media world record. We want to mobilise South Africans and the world to sing and pledge their 67 minutes,” said Abramjee.

There will be sing-alongs in the run-up to the day as well: South African Rugby has also pledged its support, saying the Springboks, along with thousands of spectators who will be present at the test match against England in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, 23 June, will also sing to Madiba.

Footballs fans will also get involved. The song will be sung ahead of matches scheduled on 18 July, as well as at half-time on the Saturday following that, on 21 July, in Durban and Cape Town respectively, when local teams take on Manchester United FC.

And DSTV can sing along too: MultiChoice has pledged to play the recording on all its channels at 8am on the day. “This is in the true spirit of doing it for our country and honouring Madiba,” said Abramjee, thanking Imitiaz Patel, the chief executive of Multichoice.

Community radio stations
Over 100 community radio stations will play the song, while Caxton and Independent Newspapers will lend their support by promoting the movement in the lead up to the day. Lead SA and its partners have invited other companies, universities, NGOs, government departments and individuals to join in, and have called on foreign media to support the initiative.

Representatives of foreign organisations in South Africa have been asked to help in getting 67+ countries to join the initiative and sing happy birthday at 8am at their local times and also to get their people to do 67 minutes of community service.

Mandela’s grandson, Luvuyo Mandela, said he and his family would hand out blankets and plant trees as part of their 67 minutes project. South African news presenter Leanne Manas also assured her 67 minutes of goodwill and encouraged others to do the same.

The chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Achmat Dangor, said no government could meet all the challenges by itself and that the citizens of South Africa needed to be active in making a difference.

“When civil society realises its strength, it can make a difference,” added singer Kabelo, who is part of Shout.

Speaking at the launch, the chief executive of Brand South Africa, one of the biggest partners of the initiative, Miller Matola, said in the spirit of ubuntu, the people in his organisation were ready to roll up their sleeves and do their part for Mandela.

94+ Schools Project
The primary objective of the 94+ Schools Project for Madiba is to celebrate Mandela’s 94th birthday by giving hope and dignity to children at a minimum of 94 schools across South Africa, by improving school infrastructure.

The campaign to alleviate the infrastructure backlog in primary schools in poor communities across the country will make a significant contribution to fulfilling Mandela's dream for every child in South Africa to be educated.

“Let’s make his 94th birthday the magic of legends and an enduring memory,” said Abramjee. “We want to give him his best birthday present ever – the love of the world.”


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