Mandela Day: The good, the bad & the ugly!


Mid July saw many corporate and small businesses breaking out of their offices and workplaces to get their employees to make a difference in the lives of their communities. Tuesday saw the annual celebration of Mandela day and it’s truly a day where we remember Tata Madiba’s legacy of building communities to be stronger, to take care of one another and to strengthen the hands of organisations that serves vulnerable communities. That is the good by the way.

But……. looking at an event like Mandela Day, I can’t help wondering why caring and supporting Non-profits in South Africa are kept to one specific day. Awareness only channeled to one day, resources made available on Mandela Day that is actually needed throughout the year. So Mandela Day is an amazing entry point to any corporate or business to do good and that’s the bad part to this tale of wonder. the one day only phenomenon, doesn’t make sense.

So what’s left then? The ugly? Jip, indeed Mandela Day is also came with quite a couple of uglies so to speak. Corporate teams that came out, passionately, to paint classrooms (and we thank you for this special gesture) and spilled paint and when they left, still high on their ‘do-good’ endorphin boost, non-profits were left to get the dried paint off the floor. Teams that spoiled the children with lots of treats and non-profit care-givers and teachers were left with energy levels they dread to contain and manage. Picture close to a 120 children bouncing around in utter chaos. Or the manager of a corporate team that ask the refugee orphan “so you are an orphan, how is that for you?” without thinking about this teenager’s journey to deal with her own ‘unwanted’ status.

Please do understand my heart here, I am all FOR Mandela Day and I think it’s awesome that the country as a whole is tuned in to the need and sharing the solidarity of poverty, need and social challenges our vulnerable communities face. One thing need to happen going forward (in my view however), is that corporate South Africa, need to start ‘thinking’ about their Mandela Day strategy before they come with wonderful resources to a program or project on this special day. They shouldn’t come to paint classrooms, they shouldn’t come and clean a field and they shouldn’t interact with children when they haven’t been emotionally prepped for their outreach opportunity.

What should they do then? They should do for non-profits what they do best. If you are a media company, create a media piece or corporate video or take testimony clips on Mandela day that the organisation can use and benefit them throughout the year. If you are and insurance company, why not help the organisation with their insurance, make recommendations to them so they can save money and channel that saved money to services or resources for their beneficiaries. If you are a banking institution, why not gather a few rands and buy educational equipment and toys that will serve the program years to come.

Nelson Mandela was all for responsible giving and making a lasting impact. When we opt to partake in such a great event on an annual basis, why not plan it better, identify a suitable organisation instead of waking up 2 days before and trying to jump on the band wagon, talk to us, ask us about our needs and how we can collaborate in making Mandela Day a worth while time for everyone and making sure we serve dignity not only to our poor, but also to the organisations that deal with our beneficiaries on a daily basis. - Janthinus Schrage