What did you really do on Mandela Day?

So the dust has finally settled on this year’s Mandela Day. For the first time since the old man left our midst, South Africa and the world had a chance to use what Madiba taught us.

Millions of people around the world took 67 minutes out of their day to give up their time and give back. To their community, to their country or to their planet.

Or did they?

Social media was abuzz with stories of people showing compassion, dignity and love for their fellow man.

But essentially these were in many cases just stories.

While the generally accepted idea is that you end up doing something that is for the greater good… How much of that actually got done on July 18th? Especially when there was some good PR to be had?

Case in point: EY – the corporate formerly known as Ernst and Young.

Their idea of giving back on Mandela Day was to host a 6,7km walk around Sandton. Their employees who took part were kitted out in EY branding and brandished placards with the company’s logo. They dubbed it a walk for change. But what change did it actually bring?

We certainly hope the R67 employees were charged to walk around the streets went to a good cause. It could be argued that EY at least attempted to do something in the spirit of Mandela while getting their corporate pound of flesh. It seems Absa on the other hand, didn’t. The only mention of #MandelaDay on their timeline was…

That’s right. Get your Mandela Day jollies off by donating your cash rewards. That way you’ll get to “do something” without leaving your computer. That’s exactly the kind of determination Mabida illustrated during his 27 years in prison.

The folk at Norton Rose Fulbright‘s office in Cape Town were really special though.

Someone over there thought it was a good idea to decorate cupcakes on #MandelaDay. Then hand the cupcakes out to people who’ve been made homeless or severely affected by the heavy downpours of late in the Western Cape.

That’s right: Because all a newly homeless person needs is a smile and a cupcake.

They may as well have called their event: Let them eat cake!

Maybe we’re wrong.

Perhaps we are also looking for a bit of good ol’ PR from our Mandela Day activities.

Dlala Nje Mandela Day 3 [supplied]Could it be that Mandela’s long walk to freedom was really about a corporate trotting around Sandton as part of some elaborate PR ploy – and we just missed the memo?

What were we doing joining forces with Warm the World and the Maboneng Precinct gathering up some blankets and handing them out to the homeless in a 200 person strong procession from Hillbrow to Maboneng?

And why did we even bother putting on a show with some jumping castles, yoga and free ice cream for the city’s underprivileged kids when we go there?

All we really needed to do in order to remember the 67 years Madiba gave up for the betterment of society was to put on some Dlala Nje branded t-shirts and hand out cupcakes.

We’ll leave you with a quote from the great man. And let you mull over these thoughts for yourself.

“A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dream of.” — Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013)

Dlala Nje profile pictureThis article was originally published on the Dlala Nje blog. Dlala Nje is a games and cultural emporium at the base of Ponte City, in the heart of Hillbrow. It provides an emerging platform for the people of Hillbrow, Yeoville and Berea, and a place for young people to congregate, learn, develop and debate. Its mission is to change South Africa’s prejudiced perceptions one day at at time. Find out more about the organisation here or follow them on Twitter.