From donating clothes to the needy to volunteering at charity organisations, South Africans came out in their numbers on Tuesday to celebrate Mandela Day in honour of the late iconic former South African President by doing good deeds on what could have been his 99th birthday.
Joining in the day’s activities was the country’s number two citizen, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who decided to roll up his sleeves to help the elderly as well as children in the small Limpopo town of Mookgophong, just outside Polokwane.
Dressed in a white overall, the Deputy President began his day by planting vegetables at an old age home, where he was joined by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Basic Education Deputy Minister Enver Surty and the Premier of Limpopo Stanley Mathabatha. The Deputy President and the ministers also helped with the painting of the exterior walls of the home.
But the main event was the official opening of a new children’s facility, the Ramadimetja Sophia Mogotlane Early Childhood Development Centre, which educates hundreds of children from across the small town. The facility was built by Cipla, a South African pharmaceutical company, at the request of the Deputy President. Here children are taught how to read and write and have access to health and wellness services as well as nutrition. Children were very close to Mandela and at some point during his Presidency, he had set aside a portion of his salary to go towards organisations that looked after children and their needs.
At the centre, the Deputy President and Minister Motsoaledi also spent time painting one of the external buildings. Protocol officers, clearly pressed for time for another event at a nearby marquee, tried in vain to convince the Deputy President , Minister Motsoaledi and Premier Mathabatha to put their paint rollers down. They simply refused and painted the whole room until it was complete.
“No chief, I don’t start something and not finish it, we are not done, until the whole building is painted, we are not leaving,” Minister Motsoaledi told the protocol officer, who glanced at his watch before he quietly moved away.
The handover ceremony of the ECD centre follows months after Deputy President Ramaphosa, on World TB Day in March, called for the creation of early childhood development centres in areas with a high TB burden with a particular focus on children under the age of five.
On Tuesday, the Deputy President told the local community that the centre will go a long way in improving the health and wellness of children in the area.
“You see, if we take good care of our children from a very young age, they will turn out to be very useful and healthy adults. We all know how Madiba cared about the children, he loved them. We need to take care of our children,” he said.
Mammoko Ramokgopa, an early childhood development specialist in the Department of Basic Education said it was important that children get the best education and care at the very early age as this foundation becomes critical later in their lives.
“See it as building a house. If you don’t get the foundation right, the house will not stand strong. It is therefore very critical that we provide the children with the best care and education while they are still very young as this builds them and makes them better and stronger human beings later in their school lives and through to university,” said Ramokgopa.