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Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Building bridges on Mandela Day

BUILDING BRIDGES: CPUT and the Robben Island Museum joined hands for a Mandela Day initiative. BUILDING BRIDGES: CPUT and the Robben Island Museum joined hands for a Mandela Day initiative.

CPUT’s Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Unit collaborated with the Robben Island Museum (RIM) as part of an initiative to celebrate Mandela Day.

The late President’s birthday, 18 July, was declared as Mandela Day by the United Nations in 2009 and encourages people to spend 67 minutes to support a charity or serve in their local community.

Jacqui Scheepers, Manager of the Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Unit (SLCE) at CPUT, said CPUT and RIM were invited to be part of the Mandela Bridges initiative by the global Ubuntu Leaders Academy, Instituto Pe Antonio Vieira (IPAV) in Portugal.

The initiative aimed to symbolically name 67 bridges around the world as “Mandela Bridges” for Mandela Day and was tested in Lisbon in 2016.

According to the Academy the gesture aimed “to signal one of the dimensions of Mandela's legacy which was his ability to build bridges, no matter how difficult it seemed to be”.

The CPUT and RIM collaboration selected the V & A Waterfront swing bridge near the boardwalk to the RIM ferry. A banner reading “Mandela Bridge (18-7.2020)” and another banner reading “Today’s the day to build bridges” were hung there on Mandela Day.

Scheepers said CPUT’s student Ubuntu Ambassadors were also asked to submit pictures of bridges in their hometowns to symbolise their commitment to ubuntu. The Service-Learning Civic Engagement Unit has been remotely coordinating the activities with students and partners leading to the Mandela Day celebrations.

The initiative coincided with a global E-Summit to promote “shared responsibility” and “global solidarity"” in the fight against Covid-19 given its health, economic, and social consequences. Several world personalities were invited to share their perspectives and proposals on how we can together overcome the impact of Covid-19. The E-Summit was co-chaired by Prof John Volmink, President of the Ubuntu Global Network and former acting Vice-Chancellor of CPUT, and José Ramos Horta, a 1994 Nobel laureate.

The 67 Mandela bridges were presented to the global audience at an on-line conference.  The contributions and reflections of the CPUT’s Student Ubuntu Ambassadors and RIM ambassadors were included in the conference contributions. 

Vuyo Mayongo, RIM’s Programmes officer in the Public Heritage Education Department, believes that “Mandela is a powerful symbol of political imprisonment and representation of those who struggle for freedom under oppressive regimes. RIM communicates Mandela’s ideals and values of freedom, the triumph of the human spirit, democracy, and the culture of human rights through building young ambassadors through nation-building programmes. During this pandemic, Mandela’s leadership still prevails to build our societies”.

Scheepers said she hoped that “students will build their leadership abilities and be encouraged to find ways to construct bridges across the cultural, economic, educational and social divides in our society. The building bridges metaphor resonates with our mission to contribute positively by building social citizenry, servant leadership and the spirit of Ubuntu”.

Written by Ilse Fredericks

Email: Frederickskennediji@cput.ac.za