Thousands of toddlers, teenagers, parents and pensioners from all walks of life joyfully descended on the Union Buildings in Tshwane today for the fifth Mandela Remembrance Walk and Run (MRWR).
Starting and ending at the country’s official seat of Government and with Madiba’s giant statue looking on to welcome the participants, the event was a fantastic celebration of the legacy and contribution of South Africa’s first democratic President.
The fifth edition of the event also paid tribute to struggle stalwart and activist, Ma Albertina Sisulu, and Margaret Gaso, one of those who spearheaded the historic Women’s March on the Union Buildings in 1956.
The country’s political elite, among them Minister of Sport and Recreation Tokozile Xasa, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga and Gauteng MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation Faith Mazibuko, mingled with the country’s sporting elite and South Africans of all ages for the event through the streets of Tshwane.
Among the sports stars who participated were South Africa’s road running rock star Stephen Mokoka, former Comrades Marathon winners Ludwick Mamabolo and Charne Bosman, US Open wheelchair tennis semi-finalist Kgothatso Montjane, as well as football legends such as Shaun Bartlett, Kalusha Bwalya and Jabulani Mendu.
Hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF), together with the Gauteng Province, this year’s event saw the popular introduction of a 21 kilometre run, in addition to the usual 10 kilometre run and five kilometre walk.
The 10km and 21km events began and ended at the Union Buildings and the 5km walk began at the Kgosi Mampuru Prison and ended at the Union Buildings.
“We made a commitment that we will grow this event and this year we saw 30 000 people participating. Every year we have decided that the last big event of significant proportion in the Gauteng province before Christmas will be for us to come together to remember the last walk of Nelson Mandela’s life, when he was lying in State at the Union Buildings before being given his final farewell,” said Makhura.
“As we walk through the streets of Tshwane we are recommitting to live together as equals, in dignity, and to strive to eradicate poverty. By participating in this event we are also committing to building a non-racial, non sexist country, and we want Nelson Mandela to know where he is right now in heaven that we are committed to building a country that is consistent with the vision that he had for us, and we will continue to do so with this event every year,” Makhura added.
Bouncing up and down excitedly at the start of the event, NMF Board Member, Tokyo Sexwale, was delighted with the crowd attendance today.
“The statue says it all. He can never die Nelson Mandela. We have a living icon in all of us and those who don’t know that, will never know just what strength South Africa has. Look at the multitudes, people have turned out in great numbers today. As the Nelson Mandela Foundation, we are very happy,” said Sexwale.
“It’s an exciting day for all South Africans, an event bringing together Africans of all walks of life young and old. it was symbolic of the way Nelson Mandela lived his life, uniting people of all kinds. This event gives us a moment where we all can emulate that giant, that icon. The venue too is amazing, tracing all his steps, from the hardships he endured, to the place where our democracy was sealed when he was sworn in as President,” said Xasa.
Msimanga hailed the day as a fanastic tribute to the “greatest statesman that has ever lived”.
“This event brought together people of all persuasions. It was electric, people came in their numbers, young and old, to say we are about one South Africa. This is what Nelson Mandela is now looking down from heaven and saying he wanted to build in South Africa. People came together today not only to remember him, but to say they want to live his legacy,” said Msimanga.
Mandela’s eldest grandchild, Ndileka Mandela, said the day was “a mixed bag of emotions”.
“There was a lot of sadness in that time flies and its now five years since Tata’s passing, but there was also a lot of happiness to see his spirit still being so wonderfully captured by so many people,” said Mandela.
Local athlete Bosman revelled in running the streets of her home town with throngs of joyous South Africans.
“The event was really nice this year and very well organised. It’s my home town, I often train here and know the route well. The marshalls even recognised me and supported me. This was my last race for the year and it was my fastest time in three years, 79 minutes, on a very special day in tribute to Nelson Mandela, so I’m very happy,” said Bosman.
For running fans there was the thrill of seeing Mokoka for once not speeding past them, but enjoying a leisurely “fun family outing” on Tshwane’s streets.
“It was a fun, awesome experience. A lot of people when they passed me on the route kept talking to me and were very happy to see me. Many people who wouldn’t ordinarily get the opportunity to see me run got a chance to meet me and I also got a chance to shake their hands. It was a real blessing and I enjoyed experiencing it with my wife. I’m happy too that this race has started catering for us as elite runners in South Africa by introducing the 21 kilometre race. I hope the event grows even more in participation and sponsorship and that it goes from strength to strength,” said Mokoka.
All proceeds from the event will go to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
21 KM Men:
1. Philani Buthelezi (KPMG) 01:05:44
2. Collen Mulaudzi (Boxer) 01:07:39
3. Lucky Mohale (Boxer) 01:09:22
1. Mamorallo Tjoka (Nedbank) 01:16:45
2. Rudo Mhonderwa (Nedbank) 01:19:07
3. Charne Bosman (Nebank) 01:19:13
1.Desmond Mokgobu (Olifantfontein) 00:29:46
2.Reghan Magwai (Born To Run) 00:29:58
3. Sibusiso Kubheka (Nedbank) 00:30:18
- Rutendo Nyahoza (Nedbank) 00:38:03
2. Deanne Horn (Nedbank) 00:38:15
3. Liza Kellerman (UJ) 00:38:38