Happy birthday Madiba from Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariëtte Du Toit-Helmbold

In celebration of Mandela Day, Cape Town Tourism staff members will donate blood with the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service and host a knitting marathon for Me-a-Mama in an effort to knit 1 000 blankets for orphaned babies.

Today is a special day indeed. Nelson Mandela turns 94 years old. On behalf of the Cape Town Tourism staff and partners, I would like to say: Happy Birthday, Madiba. You are an inspiration to us all. Thank you for helping to free our country, and for showing us the true meaning of humility and forgiveness. We wish you a long and healthy life.

The overarching objective of Mandela Day is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good.

The objectives of Mandela Day fit well with the principles of responsible tourism. The industry will be out in their thousands to support Mandela Day today. Responsible or sustainable tourism is no longer just something nice to have, it is essential for the survival of our industry. Merely surviving is however not good enough, the aim should be for a prosperous industry that continues to contribute significantly to the economic well-being and GDP of our region. Cape Town is a pioneering city when it comes to responsible tourism. We define responsible tourism as "tourism that creates better places for people to live in, and better places to visit". With Cape Town’s name inextricably linked to the definition of responsible tourism, our city has a special honour and obligation. Fortunately, we are blessed with many advantages that, if we continue to work together, should enable us to live up to these environmental, social and economic obligations.

Responsible tourism is just one element of a general shift that we each have to make, not just as an industry, but as individual Cape Town residents and human beings. From the moment our children are born, we need to teach them the value of our people and our natural resources, as well as the fine balance of it all.

In celebration of Mandela Day, Cape Town Tourism staff will donate blood at the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service and host a knitting marathon for Me-a-Mama in an effort to knit 1 000 blankets for orphaned babies.

The JAMMS partners are supporting the Tourism Community Development Trust drive to collect blankets and pillows, educational toys and books for the Red, Green and Gold crèche in Philippi for their children aged six months to six years.

Other tourism industry initiatives that we are aware of include painting houses in Blikkiesdorp, community photographic courses in Imizamo Yethu, tree-planting initiatives with Food & Trees for Africa, soup kitchens on the Cape Flats, assisting Habitat for Humanity in building 67 houses, generation XKidz street children outreach programmes and beach clean-up operations.

Nelson Mandela spent 67 years making the world a better place and we join today in 67 minutes of taking action. It is so simple to make a positive difference – so let us extend it beyond just one day a year. Freedom is one of the most precious things to have and we often take it for granted… but let us remind ourselves today of the price that was paid for our freedom and that for many around the world freedom is still just a dream.

Cape Town is often regarded as the passage of freedom in South Africa. The city has significant symbolism as a place of enslavement and subsequent liberation and freedom. As a port city, Cape Town was central in the slave trade, it is near our city where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years and it is here where he took his first footsteps to freedom. Our story of freedom goes far back, beyond the historic day when Nelson Mandela walked his first steps to freedom here in the Mother City. It is a story we should be proud of as Cape Town, a story we should make our own and tell with pride to the world.

In the words of Nelson Mandela: "Perhaps it was history that ordained that it be here, at the Cape of Good Hope that we should lay the foundation stone of our new nation. For it was here at this Cape, over three centuries ago, that there began the fateful convergence of the peoples of Africa, Europe and Asia on these shores." – Nelson Mandela inaugural speech (1994)

Happy Mandela Day!

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