MANDELA DAY: Children honour every-day heroes

'Covid-19 unlocked creative ways in which we can still meet the needs of the young people we serve," says Nelson Mandela Children's Fund

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As South Africa celebrates the 102nd birthday of the late Nelson Mandela, children from across the country say they are surrounded by people who, in many ways, remind them of the Nobel laureate and former president.

Today marks the annual commemoration of Mandela Day, a global initiative that celebrates the idea that everyone has the power to transform the world. This is the first time that the day, usually marked by community projects, is held during a pandemic which has placed limitations on movement and gatherings.

Former president Nelson Mandela. Photo: Supplied

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund’s director of communications and marketing, Nomthi Mnisi, says, “Although the covid-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down, it has also unlocked creative ways in which we can still engage our community to meet the needs of the young people we serve.

”Meanwhile children from across Mzansi tell Food For Mzansi that although the statesman has been deceased for nearly seven years, his legacy lives on. They are surrounded by people who also embody the values of peace, forgiveness, compassion and human dignity that the late Madiba was known for.

Food For Mzansi kids on the Madibas in their own lives

Naadhirah Moolla
Naadhirah Moolla

Naadhirah Moolla (16) from Cape Town: The Madiba in my life is my grandmother, Basheera Moolla. My hero reminds me of him because when she was younger, she spent 30 days in prison for fighting for the rights of her children.
She fought for children because her own husband was a drug addict and used to abuse her children. My grandma also fought for me to get accepted at my dream primary school since they (initially) didn’t want to accept me. Since that day, I’ve looked up to her as my hero and I’m never giving up.


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Luthando Mbada

Luthando Mbada (11) from Pretoria: My Madiba is TT Mbha, an entrepreneur from Gauteng. who has also recovered from covid-19. He had the courage to tell the world about his experience.
Lately, people judge others who have had coronavirus, but he was not afraid to be discriminated against. He reminds us that we should stay positive and that we can beat the virus. Anything is possible, if you believe so. He is a hero and makes me believe in myself.



Anica Swart

Anica Swart (18) from Noupoort: I am not going to speak about a specific person that makes a difference or a positive change in South Africa.
Instead, my Madiba organisation is the ATKV who makes such a huge difference to ease a lot of people’s lives. The ATKV visits old age homes to assist them with necessities. They have soup kitchens for those less and they gave masks and hand sanitisers to schools facing different obstacles during the covid-19 pandemic. The ATKV taught me not to be passive, but to always try and do good for others in need. They encourage me to always take the first step to do better.

Ntombizandile Mabindisa

Ntombizandile Mabindisa (7) from Cape Town: My grandma, Funeka, is a doctor. She is very brave. She is part of the people that are helping people who have the coronavirus.
She risks her life knowing that she has a family at home which she also needs to protect against the virus. She loves people and she is also helping other people to help her family stay safe. I love her and I want to be as brave as she is. She is a hero.



Shanon Robyn (13).
Shanon Robyn

Shannon Robyn (13) from Strand: My Madiba is my awesome dad. He taught me to be independent and to be aware of my surroundings. He is a humble person with a great sense of humour. He is so kind and respects people even though there are differences between them. He always does things to the best of his abilities. He likes to help the needy, especially those who come from the community he lived in.



Avuyile Mbada (16) from Pretoria: My hero is my grandfather, Themba Ngcakani. Nobody knows this, but he was a pillar in the Kimberley community. He ran a small shop in the township during the student uprising in the 1970’s and he would hide some of the kids running away from the apartheid police. He passed away two years ago. Even in death he is remembered as a kind, stern man with a heart of gold in the community. He had a powerful impact on the people, and one day I aspire to be half the man he was.

Wayleen Shevon Stevens

Wayleen Shevon Stevens (17) from Noupoort: The Madiba in my life is Michael Gideon Stellenberg. He creates jobs and helps the youth to develop their characters by encouraging them to work, and to discover what career suits them best. H
e teaches Afrikaans and also gives security training to the Noupoort community. He is one of the representatives of Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA). This kind of training creates jobs. South Africa is already at a breaking point because the unemployment rate is so high. PSIRA also helps to build courage among the youth of Noupoort.

Kay-Sandra Titus (8). Photo: Supplied.
Kay-Sandra Titus

Kay-Sandra Titus (8) from Macassar: If Jesus was on earth, I would say He is my Madiba, but in this time my mom is like my Madiba. My mom will give her life for me and she’s already doing everything for me. My love is very big for my mom and my mom’s love is big for me too. She runs a business from home and i know it is not always easy for her. I appreciate mom because even though she’s so busy, she always makes time for me and my little brother. I love you mom!




Mihle Ngaju

Mihle Ngaju (18) from Cape Town: I strongly believe that having a good role model is important. They influence what we do and how we turn out. Growing up, without realising there is always that one person who influenced our actions and helped us uncover who we really were and to show off our true potential. This person taught us about independence, self-love, confidence and, most importantly, respect. Having this person in our life pushes us to strive for the better. For me that person has to be my aunt, Vuyiseka Ngaju.
In 2007, she finished her matric and decide to take a gap year. My grandparents were very worried that she would be left behind, but all she said was, “I am not in a race with anyone.” The following year she studied and got a diploma in financial management. After that she got a job as a call centre agent, but was not satisfied and so she applied for financial accounting at Unisa. That is when her life took a good turn. She got herself a degree.
Currently, she is working for a well-known company as an accountant. What makes me proud of her is that she did not forget the dirty streets of Khayelitsha where she came from nor did she forget the people who were by her side through thick and thin. She came and paid back the community by donating food and money to non-profitable organisations. She taught me that respect, humanity and confidence can take you places.

Chene Patentia (11).
Chene Patentia

Chene Patentia (11) from Kuilsriver: I have two Madiba’s in my life, my mom and my dad. They have always been there for me and sets a good example for my sister and I. Even if they are a bit strict sometimes, they make time for us.
And just like Madiba, they sacrifice a lot to give us the best. My parents never carry grudges, even though we sometimes disappoint them. Sometimes I feel sad to disappoint them because they are so forgiving. It makes life easier. They always teach and remind me to respect others and to be good to others.


Zothando Khobo

Zothando Khobo (18) from Noupoort: Emily Mosoane is the Madiba in my life. She goes out of her way to help the community and looks after those who are not able to feed themselves.
When this pandemic hit us, she decided to design masks for those in need. She gave it to people for free. She is a very kind and generous women. Everything she does is for the community. I couldn’t have chosen someone better.


Jethro Gertse (7).
Jethro Gertse

Jethro Gertse (7) from Swellendam: The Madiba in my life is my granddad. Days with him are always full of fun and he always gives me the best that he can. I love that he always goes out of his way to help me, even though he is sometimes very busy or he does not feel well. Grandpa sacrifices a lot to make me happy.





Anielah Patentia (14).
Anielah Patentia

Anielah Patentia (14) from Kuilsriver: Jesus is the Madiba in my life. Without him I don’t know where I would have been. Some people might say that it is a cliché, but he really is the centre of my life.
Madiba had a way of bringing South Africans together, and that is exactly what Jesus did when he sacrificed His life for us. Jesus, just like Madiba, is a man of peace.



Sue-Lene Sampson (13).
Sue-Lene Sampson

Sue-Lene Sampson (13) from Macassar: Madiba, I am writing this letter to tell you how much I admire you as my role model. You were selfless, determined, brave, fair, focused and had a kind heart. You were so respectful and respected the will of humanity.
You changed the lives of many Africans through hard work. You also spent so many years in prison just for us to have a better life. You made a positive impact in my life by fighting for freedom. You were a consistent leader and will always be my hero. I will never forget you.


Pauline Kavai
Pauline Kavai

Pauline Kavai: Growing up, I found it very hard to find good role models. I spent my time as a child thinking who I want to be like one day. Little did I know the answer was right in front of my very eyes. During this pandemic, we have frontline workers, such as doctors, cashiers, police officers, bus drivers.
None of them compare to my teachers. Since school closed, teachers are sending work to students and organising video classes in which they can educate us. It sounds easy, but it’s not.
It was Mr Mandela who once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” My teachers surely have shown me the true meaning of this, even though I’m not seeing them face-to-face. They encourage me to wake every day and ask myself, “What am I learning today?”

Terry-Lee Daniels
Terry-Lee Daniels

Terry-Lee Daniels (13) from Strand: My Madiba is my sister, Maria. She is not only in the public eye as an Arendsvlei actress, I get to see her every day. She is also a voice over artist and a model. My sister inspires me.
She is the best sister I could ever ask for. She is kind, loving and loves to help others.
She inspires me in the way she speaks to people and to our family she is kind and there whenever we need her. She tells me every day how much she loves and cares for me. She uses her life to help others and that inspires me to do the same.

Wanyer Ruiters

Wanyer Ruiters (18) from Noupoort: The one person that I know who is working hard to fight for change in my community here in the Northern Cape is Patricia Ruiters.
She is a mother of four, a wife and a grandmother. She is also a member of the ANC. Ruiters leaves her home early in the morning to serve her community. I see her as a woman of strength. She really is like a Madiba to us.



Khanyisile Noemdoe-Hanslo
Khanyisile Noemdoe-Hanslo

Khanyisile Noemdoe-Hanslo (15) from Bellville: The person in my life that reminds me most of Madiba is my mom. Mr Mandela cared for our community and the education of South Africa’s youth. My mom works in our communities’ neighborhood watch and her (other) job is working with university students, helping them reach their dreams. She reminds me to do good for others and to value my education.



Marchionette Koopman

Marchionette Koopman from Paarl: My teacher, René Petersen, is like a Madiba to me. She’s always there for me. She’s a loving, caring and supportive person. The moment I met her, I knew that she would be the one that I could easily open-up to, knowing she would never turn me down.
She is not only a teacher to me, but more like a mother. When my mom left, she was always there for me. Her words to me every day are that I should learn hard to achieve my goals in life because everything and anything is possible.
When I have bad days, she’ll always lighting it up with one of her smiles. I love her more than anyone in this whole, wide world. She’ll always take learners’ best interest at heart.

Zamiré Adonis

Zamiré Adonis (16) from Paarl: The person I see as a Madiba figure in my life is my very own principal at Paulus Joubert High School, Ivor Collins. He strives for etiquette and is down to earth. He never judges people on where they come from, but how they act.
He always believes in his learners and never gives up on them. He is not just a principal at my school, but also for many other people out there. He is unique, kindhearted and loving. I want to thank him for everything he has done for our school and learners.


Michaila Petersen
Michaila Petersen

Michaila Petersen (16) from Paarl: Someone who is a Mandela-figure in my life is my father. During apartheid, when he was still young, there weren’t many opportunities for him. Despite that, he still tried his best to get to end up where he wanted to. And because of that, he succeeded in the career that he always wanted to be in.
He never changed for anyone and is still helping to make a difference in our economy, helping the less fortunate. He always says, “No matter how much you have, always give to people who don’t because at the end of the day, we all die without anything.”

Venus Carstens

Venus Carstens (13) from Paarl: Today I would like to tell everyone about two people I look up to: my parents. My father always tells me to stand up for myself, and to never let people bring me down.
My mother always tells me, ‘If anyone messes with you, you tell them, ‘Don’t mess with me because my name is Venus and you can’t mess with me.’” They people mean the world to me. I really look up to them and would like to be just like them one day as a parent. I appreciate everything they have done for me.

Thalia lê Fleur from Paarl: The person that inspires me most has to be my dad. He is always doing the most for our family. He helps people in need. He travels a lot. I look up to him because he only wants the best for our family and community. He made me realise that if you put your mind to it, you can really achieve anything in life.

Taryn-Lee Smith
Taryn-Lee Smith

Taryn-Lee Smith (15) from Eersteriver: The person I look up to and that I know makes a change in Mzansi and across the whole world is Jesus. Jesus died thousands of years ago and He left a huge mark on our lives.
He will continue to do so until the end of time. He made the invisible God visible. Nothing about God is negative and He is making a positive change in Mzansi every day. Jesus encourages me to celebrate Madiba Day in a way that is hopeful and helpful.

Mbalenhle Mabindisa

Mbalenhle Mabindisa (8) from Cape Town: My hero is my mother, Nthabiseng. She may not be on the same level as Tata Madiba, but she inspires me to be the best I can be. I am a gymnast and she is always there at every competition to cheer me on! She is my number one cheerleader. She is the best cook and makes sure my sister and brother are fed well. We fight sometimes, but I know that she is teaching me to be better. My mom reminds me of Madiba because she helps people understand their labour rights. Madiba fought for equal rights. One day when I am big, I hope I can be as strong as her.

Jayden Knepschelt (12) from Cape Town: My hero is my pastor, Hennie. Pastor has been working to help the needy during the pandemic. He gives food and drinks to those who cannot afford, especially in the time of this crisis. He makes sure he helps people from Monday to Sunday.

Kagiso Itebogeng (18) from Kimberley: A changemaker before my time is (the anti-apartheid activist) Steve Biko. He paved the way for me to be able to be where I am today. In school we are learning about apartheid heroes and Biko spoke a lot about black consciousness. He taught us that all things are possible, and your skin colour should never get in the way of you achieving your dreams.

Bokang Itebogeng

Bokang Itebogeng (7) from Kimberley: My hero is my mom. She is a police officer and makes sure that people follow the rules. If you make trouble, she will arrest you. She always takes good care of me and she loves me even if she shouts sometimes.



Linomtha Teki

Linomtha Teki (9) from Noupoort: My role model is Nyanisile Teki, a grandfather, priest and a teacher. When I was two years old, he was already in retirement. He used to work as a school principal for 24 years. The first high school in Noupoort was established during his time. He became the principle and at the end of that year, his first matric class got a 98% pass rate. He was ordained as a priest in 2004 while juggling work as a principle. In 2012, he became a full-time priest in Kimberley and our whole family had to move there. My grandfather excelled in missionary work and evangelism, education and outreach programmes. He had real leadership skills and that’s why I am proud to call him my hero.


Khazimla Maliti

Khazimla Maliti: The person I consider like a Madiba in my life is my mother. It starts with the little things she does for me, like waking me up in the morning to standing up for me when I don’t have the strength to crawl. She is a hard-working, independent single mother who is also an educator. My mom is very strict. She does let me bend the rules a bit, but that only happens once in a while. Like Madiba, my mom is a selfless person who is very considerate of the people around her. She is punctual and doesn’t like being late. My mother radiates positive energy and doesn’t let anything break her down. She speaks up when there’s something going on that she doesn’t like. I pray and hope that I turn out like her when I’m older.


Ubenathi Minto

Ubenathi Minto:  My Mandela is my mother because she fights for me. She has been through a lot because of me.  She taught me to be kind, respectful, helpful, honest and pure. She told me about life and she even said I must be grateful for what I have in life. She helps people. She gives poor people food and she serves the community. My mother is a police officer. She protects her country that’s why she is my Mandela.


Kayline (13) and Jayline Blaauw (15) from Joubertina: Our Madiba is our father and mother. They do so much for us, and we are thankful for that. Our oupa too always tells us, when we visit him, why we must do good at school, be humble and kind because it will take us far in life. The stories he tells us about freedom helps us to respect and be considerate of other people.

A’Geoh Blaauw-Matupe (14) from Joubertina: My mother is my role model. She encourages me to be a good person like Mandela was by always being kind, helpful, and honest. She also tells me why it is important to help other people and not to be selfish. Like my cousins, my grandfather too is my role model. He always tells us many stories about what life means to him and what it was like growing up in the old days. He also reminds me why education is so important.

Georgia (6) and Q’Rayda May (4), De Aar in the Nothern Cape: Our role models are our parents. Our mother is a teacher and our father is a soldier. The two of them do amazing work – like teaching and protecting the people of our country. Our oupa is also out role model. He teaches us humility.

Michaa Krige (16), Joubertina in the Western Cape: My role model is my mother. She is my best friend and a superwoman. Whenever there is something I am going through or struggling with, I always ask her for help, support, and guidance. She is also a teacher. Teachers are important because they help grow the nation. Without teachers, we would not be able to read and write. My mother is amazing.

Reporting by: Food For Mzansi journalists Dawn Noemdoe, Duncan Masiwa, Kyran Blaauw, Noluthando Ngcakani and Sinesipho Tom
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