In Basseterre, the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs called on all citizens to join the international community in paying homage today to Nelson Mandela.
A Ministry release said, “On the ninety third anniversary of his birth, we celebrate the man and his accomplishments. We draw on his perseverance and strong unwavering belief in equality for all races and the capacity of Africans to contribute positively to world civilization.”
For sixty seven years Mr. Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity and the fight against prejudice. The Ministry therefore encouraged all citizens to take up the call of the United Nations in devoting sixty seven minutes today in helping others in their family and community.
The Minister of Health, Social Services, Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, Ms. Marcella Liburd, extended greetings to Mr. Mandela, wishing him God’s richest blessings and many more years of good health.
Mandela’s increasingly frail health in recent months has alarmed a nation that is obsessed with his heroic contribution. Rumors have swirled of the former president’s death, or near demise. When he caught a cold this year, members of the media by the hundreds camped outside his hospital and home for weeks.
Underlying Monday’s celebrations was a fear he might not be here the next Mandela Day.
Just after 8 a.m., millions of schoolchildren sang a happy birthday song to “Tata,” or Grandpa: “We love you, Tata. We love you, Tata. We love you, dear Tata. Happy birthday to you.”
Although Mandela has often asked that his saintly status be toned down, the cult of personality first created by a committee of African National Congress leaders during the early years of his imprisonment on Robben Island in the 1960s and ’70s gained its own unstoppable momentum long ago. So Mandela Day merchandising was a major part of the day.
Government departments, major companies and media outlets ran Mandela Day events across the country, including pothole-fixing operations and donations of books to schools. SAA, the nation’s poorly performing state-owned airline, branded its fleet with the Mandela Day logo and flew a group of underprivileged children from around the country to Johannesburg to give them their first experience of flying.
Mandela Day began in 2009, and the South African government and United Nations have been pushing to make it an international event, encouraging people in every country to give 67 minutes to a humanitarian cause — or just to do a good deed.