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Young generation gets into spirit of Mandela day

Friday, July 19, 2013

SOUTH AFRICA: Sixteen-year-old Genius Molefe wasn't born when Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president, but she joined many South Africans in 67 minutes of community service marking his birthday Thursday. Molefe joined a government and UN-backed campaign to mark 67 years of Mandela's public despite the fact her knowledge of the icon's political life is limited to books, television retrospectives and family stories.

"My father always tells me about the role played by Mandela and other leaders in ending the political violence in the townships after he came out of prison," she said.

"It is a great privilege for me to say that today I did my bit in support of Mandela Day, even if it's for the first time," she said.

The high school student from Mamelodi township north of the capital Pretoria joined her schoolmates in cleaning a local old age home. Across the country a similar picture unfolded as soup kitchens were thrown up, blankets handed out and dilapidated buildings torn down.

For Molefe it was a way of tapping Mandela's moral courage, and perhaps experiencing its impact for the first time. In the years since Mandela left public office many South Africans, black and white, have become disheartened by corruption and mismanagement that is rife in Mandela's ANC. "Helping old people, who are probably the same age as Mandela, made me feel that I'm doing something meaningful. I felt proudly South African," said Molefe.

"It feels good to do something for other people." After doing her bit, Molefe headed to the hospital were Mandela has spent 41 days under intensive care.

Outside the hospital Molefe and members of her school choir spent an hour singing spirited hymns and traditional birthday songs.


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