Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang, left, shares a laugh with Rotary International Director Elect Yinka Babalola, from Nigeria, in front of a statue of Nelson Mandela.
Literacy is one of the biggest bonds between the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Rotary, said CEO Sello Hatang.
Welcoming a delegation of local and international Rotary visitors to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Hatang said Rotary helped boost the Foundation’s focus on education and communication through its own efforts to further literacy by providing books. And literacy is an issue particularly close to his heart.
After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro about a month ago he wanted to let his loved ones know he was okay and on his way back. One of his messages was to his mother. “And I was halfway through drafting it when I realised my mother couldn’t read. You know she can’t read, she can’t write,” he said.
“So, I’m trying to make sure that with your efforts, with your help, we can never say that so and so can’t read. People should just be able to read and write. And hopefully some of these efforts will ensure that you can send an SMS without thinking twice - a text should be something that’s very natural to do.
The Foundation was also attracted to Rotary by its sense of community, he said.
“There’s one thing that we’re failing globally, not just South Africa, … it’s this thing of not building inclusive societies. We’re advocating more for walls - now it’s interstate walls - instead of building more bridges across nations.” It was only when more bridges were built that there would be international harmony.
Hatang said this year’s Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture would focus on how to build inclusive societies, with a special focus on gender, and would be addressed in Cape Town by UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, from Nigeria.
Last year’s lecture was by Bill Gates, who spoke about polio and the need to rid the world of the disease.
Hatang hoped that as the group of Rotarians walked through the Centre of Memory they would gain a better appreciation of Madiba’s legacy and get to see what he was trying to do in terms of building a different world - a much more caring one than we have at the moment.
“The work that we are doing today is not about us today and our children now, but it’s about those who are still to be born: That they o to build a much more caring world,” he said.
Asked by RI Director Corneliu Dinca whether his country of Romania was among the 10 Balkan states with which the Nelson Foundation was presently co-operating, Hatang said it was not but that it could be included.
“What we are trying to do in those countries is to show that not only in South Africa, but globally, whenever you’ve got a problem you think you are unique. You think: We are the only ones who are struggling with racial discrimination; we are the only ones who are dealing with issues of xenophobia; we are the only ones. You hold your head and you complain about how bad things are,” he said.
“And what we are trying to do is to show people that you are not unique. These struggles are global. It’s about how you respond to them that matters most and South Africa is known for how we are euphoric in our approach to things. If things are good they are so good and if things are bad … everything is falling apart. It’s to try to say to people that even when you have difficulties, there’s a way out. And don’t let memory of the past continue to detain you into the future.”
Mandela had said that when he walked out of prison he looked back and had a choice: to be bitter about his experience or not to be bitter, because doing so would have made him a prisoner of a different kind. “And I think it’s to try and free countries from those shackles of the past,” said Hatang.