“It always seems impossible until it is done” – Nelson Mandela – Celebrating the Life and Legacy of a Global Icon

The year 2018 marks the centennial anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela who fought for racial equality, non-discrimination and the value and dignity of human life.

A high-level South African Government Delegation, Global South Africans and Friends concluded week-long celebrations in the United States of America for Mandela’s life and legacy with an interactive program hosted by Brand South Africa at the Rubin Museum in New York City on September 27. The evening event was powered by African Symposium, an event planning and management company focused on Africa that addressed topical issues such as Investment, the South African Diaspora and Economic Development. The fanfare event provided networking opportunities, authentic South African cuisine by Charmaine Sithappah from The Seasoned Pot, and entertainment by a South African band featuring The Lion King’s Bongi Duma. Speakers included the Chairperson of Board of Trustees, Brand South Africa, Ms. Khanyisile Kweyama, The Honorable Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Robert Haydn Davies, Humanitarian, Activist and Brand South Africa Play Your Part Brand Ambassador, Mr. Edward Ndopu and Brand South Africa USA head, Mr. Mudunwazi Baloyi. The program was moderated by acting CEO of Brand South Africa, Ms. Thembi Kunene-Msimang.

Brand South Africa was established in 2002 as the official agency to manage the reputation of “Brand South Africa”. The primary focus is developing and implementing proactive, coordinated marketing and communications reputation management strategies for South Africa with the objective to market South Africa to domestic and international audiences creating a positive and compelling image of South Africa that will build and improve the country’s Global Competitiveness says Ms. Thembi Kunene-Msimang.

Ms. Khanyisile Kweyama, greeted the audience in 11 languages and called upon global South Africans to Play their Part giving back to South Africa. She highlighted President Ramaphosa’s commitment to return to the USA to meet with South Africans who can contribute skills, talent and economic development to the country where he established a zero-tolerance policy against corruption since taking office. She referenced Mandela’s lecture earlier this year which was delivered by former USA President Barack Obama whom said that striving towards equality ensures a society can draw on the talents and the energy of all its people, which is what Play Your Part aims to do for South Africa and its people. When interviewed and asked what Heritage Day means to her, Ms. Kweyama responded with tears in her eyes “Where do I begin … I lived in exile in the United States of America” and today we get together to celebrate our heritage, diversity and culture.

Mr. Robert Davies referenced the South African President’s powerful speech to the United Nations General Assembly where he discussed priorities and the place of South Africa in the global economy to deliver to its people. South Africa has seen an increased rate of investment with 100 billion USD over the past five years with more than 800 USA companies in South Africa employing a quarter million South Africans. This number is seen to grow with new and expanded company presence in South Africa. Mr. Baloyi discussed the South African Diaspora contributing 3 billion USD for intercity development.

Mr. Ndopu a 28-year-old disabled South African defied many barriers and is a symbol of strength, determination and hope. When Ndopu was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), an incurable condition that causes progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. His family was initially told he would not live beyond the age of 5. Today, Eddie is the first African Minority with a disability to earn a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Eddie is playing his part by training with New York based physicians to defy space travel for people with disabilities during the centennial celebrations of Mandela and said, “I cannot wait to float in space”. Backed by the United Nations, he hopes to deliver “the speech of his life,” a live broadcast from a space shuttle to the United Nation’s New York headquarters, championing disability rights, early next year. Eddie will be the first person with a disability to space travel and echoed his idol’s quote – “It always seems impossible until it is done”.

South Africans are ready to play their part and asked many questions at the interactive program that spanned from building manufacturing facilities, getting Brazilian Africans involved, what are the investment selling points to leveraging an alum network of thousands who graduated from the University of Kwa Zulu Natal. Are you ready to play your part?

The 2018 celebrations conclude with a Mandela 100 Global Citizen Festival on December 2nd in Johannesburg, South Africa with a Be the Generation concert featuring highly acclaimed global musicians and artists. Will we see you there?

Photo Credit

John Oko Nyaku – Photographer, United Nations Correspondent