Mandela Day: The Spirit of Ubuntu

Ubuntu: (noun) derivative of Xhosa and Zulu a quality that includes the essential human virtues, compassion, and humanity.

On Nelson Mandela Day we remember a man of integrity who inspired Africa to reach for the stars. On days such as today, one can’t help but feel closer to uTata’s ideals of peace, love, and unity. Nelson Mandela Day is a reminder to give back and embrace humanity.

In the Nguni language, there is a saying: “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” (trans: I am because we are). In the African culture, a sense of community is at the nucleus of who we are. After all, we also have a proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child” and equally so it takes a village to rebuild our nation. The legacy of uTata Madiba challenges us as a nation to not only give 67 minutes of our time once a year in the service to others, but also allows us to celebrate him and his legacy and to reflect on the fact that as a country we as a collective have the responsibility to help build the South Africa we all dream of.

As a nation, we have made great strides in accommodating diversity in our country and are recognised around the world for our achievements in social and cultural integration. But we must continue to work harder at addressing those areas of our experience where racism, sexism, homophobia, and various other types of discrimination create conflict that lead to inequality between groups.

For this Mandela Day Simanye partnered up with the SA Back Office to commemorate Nelson Mandela and to give back to the community of New Beginnings Centre in Boksburg, part of the New Beginnings Foundation (TNBF) a place many call home.

The scale is unimaginable, holding approximately 1500 men, women, and children. The foundation isn’t glitzy or glamorous, there is no government or Lotto funding, but it is a place many people call home.

It’s a tough place to live where everybody has a bad story of how they got there – from bad relationships, bad choices, bad luck and bad addictions. Our two guides, Christine* and Deon*, both had their stories – gambling addictions, drug addictions and abusive partners – and both of them had the strength to overcome their addictions and are now employed by TNBF. But not everybody has their strength and many people who come to TNBF for assistance choose to leave after a few days or weeks.

TNBF not only give lodgings to and feed 1500 men, women and children who are permanent residents, but they look after all the pre-schoolers and make sure the older children are sent to local schools and receive remedial education if needed. Apart from this, they offer addiction counselling to their residents; training and assistance with employment; feed a total of 4500 homeless people per day, and support other NGOs with much-needed food and supplies.

The unassuming founder of this great foundation is Pastor Stephen, a soft-spoken man who grew up in an orphanage and is helping so many in his community because giving back is the natural and right thing to do. We were touched by the residents, who shared their stories, and by the Foundation itself, which does such necessary work in Johannesburg. Most importantly we left inspired by an environment free of judgment and full of caring.

For more information on The New Beginnings Foundation, contact Bernice on or visit the website:

*not their real names

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