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Smiles for the aged, kids on Mandela Day
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The elderly and children, especially those from disadvantaged communities, were the biggest beneficiaries of the acts of selflessness displayed by City of Johannesburg officials and employees during Mandela Day celebrations held across the city at the weekend.

July 18 – the international icon’s birthday – was declared International Mandela Day by the United Nations in November 2009 in honour of the 67 years he spent fighting for democracy, freedom and social justice.

On this day, millions of individuals and organisations around the world dedicate 67 minutes of their time working on causes or projects to enrich the less fortunate. The City of Johannesburg lined up a series of events again this year aimed at lessening the pain of inequality, unemployment and poverty in various communities.

At Braamfischerville in Soweto on Friday, 82 children at Sizanani Daycare Centre had the quality of their lives changed for the better – albeit in a modest way – when the City’s Citizen Relationship and Urban Management (CRUM) staff from Region C, with an army of sponsors in tow, arrived to repaint their facility, establish a food garden and plant trees.

Many of the parents in the neighbourhood are unemployed and cannot afford the R250-a-month crèche fees the daycare centre charges. Said Principal Sylvia Chauke of the City’s gesture: “This has never happened to us. Hopefully, it’s the beginning of greater things to come.”

Johannesburg Ballet used Mandela Day to create awareness of ballet in disadvantaged areas as art form that they could use to beat poverty. The company put a smile on the faces of aspiring ballerinas at the Old Multipurpose Hall in Orange Farm when some of its top black dancers put up a sterling performance that left many in the audience spellbound.

The young ones loved every moment of it, with some seen trying to emulate the dancers long after the show. In another Mandela Day event in Region C, the Roodepoort Theatre and Alexander Harvest Time Foundation, a Discovery-based non-governmental organisation, entertained more than 200 children from various areas in the region, including Kagiso and surrounding areas.

The Ekujabuleni Kwabadala Daycare Centre in Orlando East, Soweto, was given a welcome facelift in a collective act of selflessness by Johannesburg’s municipal-owned entities that the facility director, Kgomotso Mogase, said would bring back the senior citizens’ dignity. In Alexandra, Johannesburg City Parks & Zoo spearheaded a cleanup campaign at Itlhokomeleng Home for the Aged on Friday.

Also on Friday, Johannesburg City Parks & Zoo staff and other key stakeholders removed weeds and planted trees at De Wetshof Old Age Home in South Hills in Region F.
Other Mandela Day events championed by the City of Joburg at the weekend included the following:

General cleanup and tree-pruning at the Carl Sithole Centre, Salvation Army, in Klipspruit, Soweto;
General cleanup at the Drugs & Alcoholic Anonymous Centre in Lenasia;
Removal of alien plants and general cleanup along the Old Pretoria Road, between Kingwillow and Olifantsfontein; and
Cleanup drive along Vincent Tshabalala Road, formerly London Road, in Alexandra.
The spirit of the day was probably summed up by Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar at the Roodepoort Theatre when he quipped: “I just wish every day could be a Mandela Day. There would certainly be less chaos on the roads.”