“I declared this year the year that ‘Cape Town honours Nelson Mandela,’ a campaign of recognition for the former President in his lifetime,’ reports Mayor Patricia de Lille.
“There’s something strange about a person becoming a living legend. That is, the undefined myth around the individual becomes so powerful that the details, the story- the very person of the individual- sometimes gets lost in the process.
Former President Nelson Mandela has often said that he is just one man- a person beneath the legend. But despite his reminders, the scale of his achievement and the era-defining impact of his leadership have created a momentum of historical force that has long escaped his control.
Given the pivotal role that Madiba plays in South Africa, and considering the strength of his personal example and leadership that led us here, it is only fitting that we encourage an understanding of him in a celebration honouring him in his lifetime.
It’s true that we have a special relationship with Madiba. It was here that he was unjustly imprisoned for trying to set us free. It was from here that he presided over the establishment of a constitutional order based on dignity and human rights. And it was here that he was given the freedom of this city in 1997, thereby ushering Cape Town into a new phase of its long history.
That relationship motivates us to honour him. But beyond that relationship, there is a civic duty to interrogate Madiba’s legacy and foster a public understanding of the man and his place in historic times. In so doing, we will be empowering people to retake ownership of the future we dreamed of in 1994.
To do that, after appropriate consultation, we will be running a public programme of events, displays and celebrations throughout the year. In rolling out that programme, we will unpack the legend through a critical engagement of the former President and his living legacy, grounding our understanding in the facts from which the legend emerged.
By doing that, we will start to remove the ambition and the hope of 1994 from a legend beyond our grasp to a place we can see, somewhere not far off in the distance.”
Extract from a Weekly Newsletter by THE EXECUTIVE MAYOR OF CAPE TOWN, ALDERMAN PATRICIA DE LILLE