Each year on July 18 the global community celebrates Mandela Day, to honour the life, humanitarian work and legacy of Nelson Mandela on his birthday.
This annual international day was first celebrated in New York in 2009, and was officially declared later that year by the United Nations. Although it is not a public holiday, it offers an important moment to reflect and to honour South Africa’s former President and the values of democracy, equality, diversity, respect and freedom that he championed.
We remain fiercely proud of OPSEU’s long relationship of solidarity in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. Our union was at the forefront of the anti-apartheid movement throughout the 1980s right up until Mandela walked free. In the early 1980s, a resolution passed at Convention committing our union to stand in solidarity with the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) including a $5000 annual donation.
Throughout this period, OPSEU members took up a boycott of South African products like canned fruit and other goods by ridding the shelves in their workplaces and institutions. When Mandela walked to freedom in 1990, OPSEU recognized him with the Stanley Knowles Humanitarian Award – the union’s highest honour.
Remembered today as the one of the greatest and most courageous human rights activists who boldly challenged the apartheid regime in South Africa – and at a great personal sacrifice – Mandela continues to inspire generations of people from all across the globe.
This year, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has launched a new Mandela Day strategy to mark the tenth anniversary of the initiative called, “Mandela Day: The Next Chapter,” which is a 10-year initiative to mobilize people, government, civil society and corporations to focus on improved education and literacy, food and nutrition, shelter, sanitation and active citizenship.
It is through the Foundation that Nelson Mandela’s vital humanitarian work carries on.
Mandela Day is an opportunity to honour the Nobel Peace Prize recipient’s work towards conflict resolution, reconciliation and peace, but it’s also a chance for all of us to recognize our own abilities to make positive change and the strength that exists in our solidarity.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer