TO celebrate Nelson Mandela Day tomorrow – the former president’s internationally celebrated birthday – born-frees across the Eastern Cape paid homage to the world icon by creating a “Mandela memory tree tribute”.
The 1200 Grade 11 and 12 pupils – who have been attending four different winter school programmes run by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s School of Accounting over the past three weeks – were each given a paper “leaf” on which to write one word which summed up how they viewed Madiba, with an explanation on the back.
The project was spearheaded by top-achieving first-year accounting students, who are all recipients of the NMMU’s Vice- Chancellor’s Scholarships for academic performance.
Most of them were tutors at the winter schools, held in Port Elizabeth and George.
The feedback from the born- frees, 20 years into democracy, proves that they value the role Mandela played in their own freedom.
“Legend” was Gamble Street High Grade 11 pupil Zandile Makhalima’s word for Mandela.
“He sacrificed his entire life just for the freedom of others. He might be gone but his legacy will live on – a true legend.”
“I want to be like him one day, to help people and bring the spirit of ubuntu because this country needs people like him,” wrote Douglas Mbopa High’s Fezeka Nyendwana, also in Grade 11, who called Mandela a “role model”.
Alexander Road High matric pupil Tess Malgas said Madiba was “incredible”.
“What Mandela did for South Africa is beyond belief,” she wrote.
Boitumelo Dorane, in matric at Graaff-Reinet’s Union High, called Mandela qhawe lama qhawe (hero of heroes).
“Tata Mandela had the influence and the power to turn our country into a river of blood but instead he chose peace. Not many leaders who have been oppressed and ridiculed would do the same.”
“Humble” was Collegiate High Grade 12 pupil Elma Alam’s word for Madiba. “He was a world leader. He changed history but he didn’t let fame change him.”
The tree will be showcased at a vice-chancellor’s scholars’ leadership event with NMMU chancellor Santie Botha on Tuesday. Photographs and the story behind the tree will also be sent to the government. – Nicky Willemse