|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by South Africa’s Foreign Minister on Nelson Mandela Day
As the United Nations marks its first Nelson Mandela International Day this weekend with events around the globe, South Africans will be celebrating the 18 July birthday of their nation’s father with a weekend of prayer and acts of goodwill, South Africa’s Foreign Minister told reporters at a press conference held at United Nations Headquarters today.
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said Mr. Mandela preferred that people celebrate his birthday by giving “a helping hand to the less privileged” rather that cutting a cake. “It is a great honour to come here on this auspicious occasion to celebrate the father of our nation’s birthday,” Ms. Nkoana-Mashabane said. Back home, the celebration will begin at the Union Building in Pretoria and spread out across the country. The Union Building has been the residence of the presidency since the first free elections in 1994.
South Africa was dedicated to continue working with all nations and the United Nations to ensure that humanity did not go through what South Africans had done to themselves. “…we have to continue walking in his footprints”, said the Foreign Minister, referring to Mr. Mandela’s work to build a non-racist and democratic country. South Africa would also be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Mr. Mandela’s release from prison on Robben Island.
South Africans would also be celebrating their own hard work, undertaken in preparation for the first World Cup held on African soil in June and July. “The World Cup should be a true living tribute to Mandela. We saw South Africans from all types of life walking in the streets and supporting our team,” she said. “We are all shedding a tear of joy that he had lived to see all these things.”
She said the World Cup had helped to deliver positive growth, development, peace and security to the African continent. “We buried African pessimism,” she added. The World Cup 2010 also helped to show that South Africa was an integral part of the African continent. The year was pledged to peace and security.
South Africa was asking other United Nations Member States to support its candidacy as a member of the Security Council in 2011-2012, in Mandela’s name and for the goal of “peacemaking, peacekeeping, peace maintenance on African soil and everywhere else in the world”, she said. South Africa’s bid for a Security Council seat, which the country had initiated in 2008, was supported by the African Union.
On 10 November 2009, the 192-member General Assembly adopted a resolution to commemorate Mr. Mandela’s long-standing commitment to promoting conflict resolution, race relations, human rights, reconciliation and gender equality. The Assembly had declared 18 July “Nelson Mandela International Day”, beginning this year, when Mr. Mandela celebrates his ninety-second birthday. After his release from prison on Robben Island in 1990, Mr. Mandela became the first President elected in a fully representative democratic ballot in post-apartheid South Africa. He held office from 1994 to 1999, in accordance with the country’s Constitution. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Peace in 1993. Along with United Nations offices around the world, the International Day’s events are being celebrated from Myanmar to Sudan to Austria.
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