Celebrating Nelson Mandela International Day - 2020

Event date: 
2020-07-17 23:00 to 2020-07-18 22:30


Introduction and background


In 2009, President Jacob Zuma first introduced the concept of Mandela Day to motivate a nationwide campaign to get the public involved in charitable activities. In November 2009, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) paid tribute to Dr Nelson Mandela by adopting a resolution to make the international community aware of his humanitarian work.
From 2010, 18 July was declared by the UNGA as International Nelson Mandela Day. This day also coincides with the icon’s birthday. The celebration of this international day recognises and gives credence to the former President Nelson Mandela’s commitment to human rights, conflict resolution and reconciliation.
Nelson Mandela Day not only celebrates Nelson Mandela’s life, but it is also a global call to action for people to recognize their ability to have a positive effect on others around them.
These values include democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation, and respect. An international campaign has been initiated by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the International Nelson Mandela Day, which sums up what Mandela stands for. It gives all people in South Africa and all over the world an opportunity to do something for others, for only 67 minutes in recognition of the 67 years that Madiba spent fighting against apartheid.Many people and organizations around the world take part in many activities to promote Nelson Mandela Day.
These activities include volunteering, sport, art, education, music and culture. Various events are also held on or around July 18 to honor Nelson Mandela’s works and to promote the different projects that were inspired by Mandela’s achievementsCabinet on 1st July 2009 endorsed the call to declare 18th July as global Mandela Day. In November 2009 the United Nations once again declared 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day. All South African, civil society organisations and the citizens of the world supported the Mandela Day initiative by doing acts of good works in their communities.

South Africa's celebration 


Every year on 18 July South Africans and the international community honour former President and international icon, the late Nelson Mandela through the Nelson Mandela International Day. This is an annual international day of humanitarian action in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy. Also, it is a catalyst to encourage everyone to change the world through voluntary community work.

Throughout his lifetime, Nelson Mandela spent 67 year of his life advancing the struggle for the liberation of all South Africans, black and white, from political, social and economic division.
"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."


18 July 2020 - Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, who joined WWF for its Nelson Mandela Day activity in 2020, teamed up with WWF for the day. The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has successfully set up over 110 fishing co-operatives involving 10 500 individual fisher men and women throughout the country. In the past year all of these co-operatives have been issued with 15-year fishing rights, and work started to provide them with formal training and other forms of business support.

The Minister travelled to Kleinmond for an outside meeting with representatives of the community – with all Covid-19 safety protocols observed.

» read media statement


Deputy Minister Sotyu hands over 250 school desks as part of Mandela Day in Ladybrand, Free State

17 July 2020 - The Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Ms Makhotso Sotyu today handed over 250 eco-furniture school desks to Ladybrand and Manyatseng Primary Schools in Ladybrand, Free State as part of the global Nelson Mandela Day.

The handover also included face masks, school bags, school shoes, fleece blankets, sanitizers, hygiene packs, water tanks, garden tools, recycling waste bins and sanitary towels which were also donated to Manyatseng Old Age Home.

» read media statement

Theme and messages 


Quotes by the Minister, Deputy Minister and CEO of WWF South Africa

Barbara Creecy, Minister of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries:

“The small-scale fishers along the coast of our country have been hit hard by the economic and social effects of Covid-19.  This group was affected long before other communities felt the impact of the pandemic. From as early as February this year, fishing communities were unable to sell their catch in many Asian markets.

Today, in the spirit of Nelson Mandela, we again extend a hand of friendship and support to our small-scale fishing communities. Ours is a common struggle for transformation of the fishing industry, sustainable use of marine resources and access to better livelihoods for coastal communities.”

Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO WWF South Africa;

“WWF has a deep and long-standing relationship with the small-scale fishers of the Kogelberg whom we know face many day-to-day challenges, but who have also shown enormous willingness to work with us to protect the rich marine life on their doorstep. We would like to thank everyone who has come together today to put together this small relief package for a community whose hardship was only intensified by the Covid-19 crisis.”

Nelson Mandela Day International Day is therefore a call to action for the nation to work together for the continuous development of humanity through the attainment of basic freedom in line with this year’s message - “Take Action - Inspire Change - Make Every Day a Mandela Day”.

Makhotso Sotyu, Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries:

“We were in Ladybrand in response to the clarion call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation for all of us to be active citizens in our communities, individually or as part of one of the millions of groups getting together to start initiatives around delivering food parcels, making masks and protective gear, teaching online or making donations towards these efforts,” said Deputy Minister Sotyu.

“Since April 2014, our Eco-Furniture Programme has successfully placed over 600 000 learners behind high-quality desks, most for the very first time in their careers,” added Deputy Minister Sotyu.


Nelson Mandela International Day theme and key messages

The message encourages everyone to be active citizens and agents of what they want to see. As a champion of change, Mandela was instrumental in reconciliation and ensuring that Africans come together to defeat all challenges - like apartheid, poverty and wars, among others. This theme encourages us to take responsibility to change attitudes and to ensure a peaceful co-existence in communities.
Also, July is known as Social Cohesion Month which encourages South Africans to become active citizens that work together to develop a cohesive society. This entails promoting the Constitutional principles and ideals of non-racialism, non-sexism, justice and equality for all. It is also an opportunity to do more to build an inclusive society and economy. More importantly citizens must push for a recognition of shared symbols and values and promote a countrywide conscious sense of being proudly South African.
Key messages:
  • Mandela Day promotes democratic values of justice and equality:
    • International Nelson Mandela Day, as declared by the UN in 2008, aims to showcase his work and to make the world aware of his humanitarian work.
    • Celebrating this day is an opportunity to give to those who do not have through charitable organisations (Nelson Mandela Foundation; Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and Mandela Rhodes Foundation) and raise funds to support their continuing work of ensuring change.
    • The Mandela Day campaign message encourages people to use 67 minutes of their time to support a chosen charity or serve in their local community.
  • Make every day a Mandela Day:
    • To encourage South Africans to make every day a Mandela Day, by staying true to his ideals of justice, equality and a non-racial South Africa.
    • All South Africans have a responsibility to promote freedom and defend our democracy in honour of Madiba’s life-long commitment to these ideals.
    • His legacy lives on in our commitment to ensure a just and fair society for all, including the rights to dignity and freedom of expression.
    • Government remains determined to ensure that all South Africans, without exception enjoy all the rights enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
  • Nelson Mandela promoted South Africa’s leadership role in the Africa Agenda:
    • Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his efforts to finding a peaceful resolution to the country’s deep-rooted conflicts stemming from colonialism.
    • Mandela Day is dynamic instrument that promotes Pan Africanism and unity in diversity.
    • Under his leadership South Africa ceased to be the pariah of the world. Instead, it regained its rightful place on the continent and became part of the family of nations whilst also emphasising that Africa is at the centre of South Africa’s foreign policy.
    • Nelson Mandela recognised South Africa as an integral part of the African continent and understood its national interest as being intrinsically linked to Africa’s stability, unity and prosperity, hence the need to embrace each as Africans.
    • After his release, he recognised Africa’s assistance during the struggle and thanked them for their hospitality and support as they opened their doors and became home for many South Africans who had fled the persecution of the apartheid government.
  • We walk the Mandela talk:
    • Nelson Mandela has been one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero who embarked on a lifelong dedication to the fight against injustice and racial oppression.
    • Honour the memory of our icon by making this the best Nelson Mandela Day by using it to foster social cohesion, nation building, economic development and inclusive citizenship
    • It is a global call to action for people everywhere to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place by giving our time supporting a charity or serving local communities.
    • There is no other way to honour the late former President than being dedicated to the service of our fellow human beings and by actively helping to change their circumstances.
  • Let us build a society that is home to all:
    • We must do more to break down the artificial barriers of culture, race or religion that still divide us.
    • This generation must continue to work towards a society free from racial, social, economic and class barriers.
    • We must strengthen the common ties that bind us rather than focus on that which divides us.
    • Government will not rest until all South Africans enjoy the fruits of our liberation and our democracy.
    • Together we can ensure greater daily interaction on an equal basis which will build social cohesion and common understanding.
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Previous Nelson Mandela International Day initiatives by the department:
2019 commemoration  • 2017 commemoration  • 2016 commemoration •2015 commemoration •2014 commemoration2013 commemoration  • 2012 commemoration

Related websites


International Nelson Mandela Day
Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund
46664: it's in your hands
Moral Regeneration Month


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