Mandela Day brings a nation together
ONLY a very special person could bring a South African community once riven by anti-foreigner violence together, and only a very special person did.
The person was Nelson Mandela and the occasion was his 92nd birthday.
The community came together to play a little soccer for the beginning of the so-called "goodwill games", which were among activities marking Mandela Day, which falls on the Nobel Laureate's birthday.
Community leaders in Atteridgeville organised the tournament of teams of Somalis, South Africans, Zimbabweans and Mozambicans who all live in this poor neighbourhood.
Mr Mandela, who turned 92 yesterday, spent the day with his family in Johannesburg. His wife went to an orphanage in Soweto to help plant a vegetable garden.
"Today is an opportunity for millions of people around the world to look inside themselves and find those beautiful qualities as any human being has and say: 'I am able to make a difference to my neighbour, to someone underprivileged, I can extend my goodness to other people,'" Mr Mandela's wife Graca Machel said yesterday.
President Jacob Zuma marked the day in Mr Mandela's birthplace of Mvezo by planting trees and painting class rooms in that region.
In a speech in Mvezo, Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela taught South Africans that "we must work together to entrench African unity and solidarity in our country".
He said South Africans had embraced visitors from the rest of the continent during the World Cup.
"We urge a continuation of this spirit of African unity, love and friendship," Mr Zuma said.
Lindiwe Motha (32) watched the first game in Atteridgeville, between South Africans and Somalis.
Though she was South African, she was more interested in enjoying the day than rooting for a team.
She said: "This is showing we're coming together."