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Mandela, the 'social change' network

20 August 2013, 07:27

Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela has countless streets named after him, his own foundation, his own fan page and now his own social network.

The website mandela.is allows users, called "citizens", to connect, share inspirational thoughts, photos and articles in an effort to emulate the apartheid icon's positive impact on the world.

The site is the brain-child of two Mandela grandsons and it was set up by the company behind Lady Gaga's online social community littlemonsters.com.

"It's a social network around the inspiration my grandfather gave to the world," said Ndaba Mandela, 30.

"People can share what Mandela inspired them to do, to give back to their communities."


Few people today command the same global adoration as Mandela, 95, who for many embodies peace and forgiveness.

He walked free after 27 years in jail for opposing apartheid and united a deeply divided SA as its first black president in 1994.

Four years ago the UN declared his birthday on 18 July Mandela Day - calling on people around the world to spend 67 minutes doing good for others to mark the number of years he spent as an activist.

But four hospitalisations in a year are a reminder of Mandela's old age and mortality.

He has spent over two months in hospital for a critical lung infection and is on life support machines.

"We only celebrate our icons, our leaders when they have passed away," Ndaba said.

"We came together as a family and said 'guys, let's not wait until he is dead, let us start the celebration now [while] he is still moving, talking, communicating,'" said Ndaba.


Entrepreneur Ndaba developed the idea with his cousin Kweku, 28, who has a background in entertainment and marketing.

The cousins' parents Makgatho and Makaziwe are Mandela's children with his first wife Evelyn Mase, whom he divorced in 1958.

Mandela.is quietly launched in March this year.

Still in the beta phase, it has around 1 000 members, some of them already vocal.

Kukogho Samson, a 28-year-old Nigerian journalist, often posts his poems:

"Seek the honour in doing good: A word to sweeten sour mood, A loaf for mouths that lack, A cloth to cover naked back."

Kathleen Ndongmo, a 34-year-old entrepreneur from Cameroon, is outspoken about justice in Africa, lashing out at child marriage in Nigeria and corruption in Guinea.

The platform combines features from Facebook and Twitter into one site where users post information, pictures and multimedia.

Posts are tagged with key words like "inspire", "everyday heroes", and "random act of kindness", which facilitates searches by other members.

"Rather than focus on Nelson Mandela's singular achievements, our goal is to engage a global community in dialogue about the inspiring acts of those all around us," the site states.

"This is a business like any other business," said Ndaba, though he insists the priority is "to create a platform that is credible, respectable and enjoyable by users".

"It's not about the money, but to make the people understand who is Nelson Mandela and give back to their communities," he said.



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