As South Africans mark Nelson Mandela Day, the president has urged people to honour the legacy of the anti-apartheid hero by helping to rebuild the country after days of riots that left 212 dead.
President Cyril Ramaphosa joined thousands of other citizens to take part in a clean-up campaign in Soweto, Johannesburg as part of his Mandela Day initiative.
His first stop was at the Ndofaya Mall in Meadowlands which was among the shopping centers looted and vandalized during last week’s unrest. At least 10 people lost their lives at the mall.
Ramaphosa also visited the Maponya mall which was the only shopping center in the area that was spared from looting as community members surrounded and protected it. He thanked young people who were at the forefront of shielding the mall from looters.
The government has been appealing to citizens across the country to help in the clean-up campaign.
“You can encourage your friends to lend a hand in the #cleanUpSA initiative to clean up the damage caused by public violence or donate food to those in need. Community formations, NGOs and faith-based organizations can also help by ensuring that the destitute, and the needy are provided with basic necessities,” said acting government spokesperson Michael Currin.
Sylvia Graham from Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) said that the NMF on Sunday donated food parcels to the Soweto Home for the Aged and Ikageng Itireleng Aids Ministry, a social welfare center in Soweto.
“In the past week we had instability and difficulties and we are calling on everyone not to look away, make every day a Mandela Day. We encourage South Africans and the international community to donate to the NMF with non-perishable foods since our focus this year is food security. We have other programs on the website on how one can assist.”
She called on the people to help feed the vulnerable children, the aged and the sick.
Graham said the NMF also joined the Gauteng Provincial government to clean after looting to help rebuild the country.
The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe who is also the chairperson of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), when addressing the communities in KwaZulu-Natal, called on the community to shun fake news and work to rebuild the country.
“There is nothing revolutionary about attacking the factory and destroying the people’s livelihoods. Imagine people will now have to pay transport fares to travel and buy basic foods after the burning of the malls and shops,” he said.
The Nelson Mandela International Day is an annual international day in honor of Nelson Mandela, celebrated each year on July 18, Mandela’s birthday.
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Volunteers collect rakes and other cleaning material during a cleanup operation organised by the Grace Family Church in Durban on 18 July 2021
image captionVolunteers have been organising clean-up operations in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces
“The one positive thing I can say is that this incident has united us as never before,” Cyril Ramaphosa said.
People have been posting photos of themselves distributing food to areas most affected by the unrest.
The violence was sparked by the jailing of ex-President Jacob Zuma.
He handed himself in to police on 7 July to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of court.
The 79-year-old was found guilty for failing to appear before an inquiry to answer questions about corruption during his presidency.
On Monday, Mr Zuma is due to attend – via video link – another corruption trial in relation to a $5bn (£3bn) arms deal from the 1990s.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and his lawyers are now calling for a postponement because of the violence.
Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, died at the age of 95 in 2013, when Zuma was president.
Each year on what would be Mandela’s birthday – 18 July – people are urged to spend 67 minutes helping others, to mark his 67 years of public service.
Mr Ramaphosa has spent the day in Gauteng province touring Soweto, South Africa’s largest township and once home to Mr Mandela.
He has been taking part in the clean-up after mayhem which saw thousands of people ransacking malls.
Small businesses, warehouses, factories, clinics and schools in the two provinces of Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng were also targeted – a level of violence unprecedented in post-apartheid South Africa.
Debris was strewn all over the streets and some communities have had to travel long distances to buy basics.
In Durban, the main city of KwaZulu-Natal, the authorities are also investigating a chemical spill possibly linked to a warehouse fire after dead fish were spotting washing ashore.
A member of a spill cleaning crew removes dead fish from the river in the uMhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve in Durban on July 18, 2021.
image captionDead fish have been washing ashore in Durban
The unrest has now largely subsided and the deployment of 25,000 soldiers is expected to be completed by the end of the weekend.
Mr Ramaphosa, who says the violence was orchestrated, has faced criticism for acting too late.
Amid the chaos people armed themselves and formed defence units to protect their property.
But during his tour of Soweto, the president said he was impressed by South Africans’ resilience – reflecting Mr Mandela’s spirit.