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​​​Madiba brightens up Thokoza Park​


A large portrait of a smiling former President Nelson Mandela gazed at scores of Johannesburg residents who had gathered at Thokoza Park in Rockville, Soweto, on Wednesday to honour the late international icon ahead of International Mandela Day on Saturday.

Thokoza Park is the site where Madiba planted a tree in 2008 to mark his 90th birthday.

The indigenous Celtic Safrikana has over the past seven years grown into a tall and gigantic tree, a lasting reminder of a man who dedicated his life to the fight against apartheid and other human and social injustices. Wednesday’s occasion formed part of the Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo’s comprehensive and citywide Mandela Day Programme to honour the late statesman, who died on 5 December 2013 at the age of 95.

Nine other events will be held throughout the city on Friday July 17.

Delivering the keynote address, Councillor Mahlomola Kekana, the City of Johannesburg’s Chief Whip of Section 79 Committees, lauded the Nelson Mandela Foundation for initiating the “67 Minutes for Mandela” campaign through which people around the world could devote 67 minutes of their time on his birthday to projects aimed benefiting humankind. “Globally, leaders, activists, schools and regular citizens like you and I will gather [on this day] to make a small difference to someone’s life by extending their humanity to their fellow brothers and sisters,” he said.

Quoting the late former president, Councillor Kekana said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”

Councillor Kekana said South Africans and people the world over were in awe of Madiba’s imprint of wisdom, charm, humour and sense of righteousness.

“He inspired us all to strive to be better human beings. More importantly, Madiba’s selflessness has taught us that we all have a responsibility to take care of the most vulnerable in our society, including children, the aged and the environment.”

He said International Mandela Day afforded everyone the opportunity to start talking and working together. “We talk about building social cohesion. Let us all continue living Mandela’s legacy by turning challenges into opportunities,” he said.

He said much as the City and the government were committed to enhancing the quality of the environment, the reality was that they would not be able to redress imbalances without the collective support of residents. He pleaded with residents not to litter and to strive to keep all the parks in the city free of broken bottles and to report all transgressions to park rangers and relevant by law enforcement agencies.

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