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Celebrating Nelson Mandela: 'A man who set an example'


South Africans are celebrating former President Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday. Hundreds of people have donated 67 minutes of their time to help those in need as requested by his foundation - to mark the 67 years he spent in active political life.

BBC News website readers in South Africa describe how they marked Mr Mandela's contribution to the struggle against apartheid.

image caption'The library now pulses with atmosphere and light'

Sixty-seven minutes. Just 67 minutes, for one day, where the nation comes together in honour of a man who dedicated 67 years of his life striving towards a better future for us all. A man who set an example to the entire world.

I work for Joe Public, an independent agency. We decided to honour the occasion and do our bit by encouraging all our staff - 45 in total - to volunteer at Forte High in Dobsonville in Soweto.

Armed with paint brushes, brooms, mops, bin bags and litres of caffeine, we set out to revamp the school's neglected library in a bid to turn it into something that would encourage the children to want to learn in an environment they felt comfortable in.

Breaking off into groups we began by turning the library into a shell - dragging out the old, tatty furniture and broken shelves and doing an apocalyptic spring clean.

Gradually the shelves were pulled out, cleaned and fixed and the books wiped and sorted into appropriate genres and sections.

We now have a new-found respect for librarians. The walls were painted in lime green and orange, bringing some much needed atmosphere and pop to the room - while large white trees were stencilled onto several of the walls.

After many hours and exhausted snack supplies, the room was transformed. The library now pulses with atmosphere and light; full of new books, magazines, walls and units.

But even more gratifying than watching something develop into something amazing, right before your very eyes, is the knowledge that today we had a chance to change something for the better.

To go beyond our day-to-day responsibilities and actually affect someone's life, even on the most modest scale, like redecorating a forgotten room. That is the most inspiring thing of all.

I have been out today cleaning the streets of East London for my 67 minutes of voluntary work.

image caption'The atmosphere was just awesome'

I work for the municipality and there were so many of us out on the streets getting involved in this activity.

The atmosphere was just awesome. I really enjoyed myself. Everybody was in high spirits although the roads were rather dirty.

They were littered with leftover food and other bits and pieces. However, it was important for all of us to get involved.

What we did is nothing compared to what Nelson Mandela has done for us. He is the father of our nation.

I met him many years ago when I was seven years old and in Grade 1. It was just after he became president and at the time, I didn't realise what an honour it was.

He was extremely kind to me and my friends. He was lovely.

He is South Africa's hero.

I spent my 67 minutes volunteering at the Blomvlei Primary School in Hanover Park. Hanover Park is a community which is overrun with gangsters, drugs and crime.

The school functions as a home away from home where children can play in safety.

image caption'It was an extremely productive day'

I work for the Overlanding Africa.

My company reorganised the rota which allowed staff to be relieved from their normal duties. This was an opportunity to do something that truly made a difference.

Six people from Overlanding Africa came along. We donated our time, compost, mulch and equipment. We all thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to get involved.

The primary school needed their fields to be cut and their trees to be pruned. We all got our hands dirty and mucked in. We collected the discarded tyres which were strewn all over the field and dug a hole around each small tree. We then carefully placed a tyre over the tree to secure its base. Finally filling the tyres with compost and mulch.

By doing this, water will stay around the tree and the school will save on water expenses and the trees will get the most out of rains.

We managed to complete it all in 68 minutes. Our efforts were modest in comparison to what Nelson Mandela has done for this country.

Mr Mandela is a legend in South Africa. He is a total inspiration to me. He gave 67 years of his life in service to South Africa and the least I could do to show my appreciation for what he has done was give 67 minutes of my time.

I jumped at the opportunity to help the less fortunate. It was an extremely productive day. We finished the task at hand, we were all outside on one of Cape Town's most beautiful days, and we got to hear the laughter of the school children as they all enjoyed their break time on the field.

I am most definitely going to volunteer again. Next year I'm keen to read to the children at the Blomvlei Primary School.

Interviews by Elisabeth Ukanah

More on this story

  • South Africa celebrates Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday