Konica Minolta South Africa recently undertook one of its most fulfilling corporate social investment (CSI) projects ever, helping to ‘green’ the Eastern Cape in a tribute to the province’s favourite son, Nelson Mandela.
A team comprising members of Konica Minolta South Africa’s head office, East London and Mthatha staff, as well as one of the company’s CSI partners, Food and Trees for Africa, made a three-day journey that covered almost 900 kilometres, to plant 95 indigenous trees at significant sites across the region.
Championed by Konica Minolta South Africa’s Eastern Cape branch manager, Gary Eves, the group undertook a round trip of over 170 kilometres – from East London to Alice and Fort Beaufort and back – on day one. The first stop was Fort Hare University’s Alice campus, which was attended by Madiba in the 1940s.
Said Eves, ‘We received an extremely warm welcome from Fort Hare University’s science and agriculture faculty. Most impressive, however, was the appreciation given for the 19 trees planted at the university’s sport stadium and also the strong commitment to the region by the BAgric and BSc Agric students met on the day.’
The second planting for this day took place at Madiba’s secondary school, Healdtown Comprehensive School, established in 1855 in Fort Beaufort. Accompanied by the school’s principal, Mzingisi Douw and a grade 12 student with Computer Science aspirations, Mzakhe Macembe, another 19 trees were planted in the school’s front garden to provide learners with shade and add to the school’s tranquillity.
Day two of Konica Minolta South Africa’s Eastern Cape tour saw the planting team travel more than 300 kilometres to Mthatha, in order to visit the Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre in Qunu.
‘Qunu was a significant place for us to visit, in that it is not only where Madiba was baptised but also his final resting place,’ explained Eves. ‘We were pleased to donate 38 trees that were split between the Youth and Heritage Centre and the remains of the nearby church at which he was baptised.
‘The Konica Minolta South Africa team was very touched by this emotional event, where addresses by Qunu’s chief, Nokwanele Dalizulu, the human capital manager of the centre, Mr. David Mqamelo, and Ms. Mandisa Bida, organising secretary of the African Native Mission church, brought a tear to the eye. Chief Nokwanele, the church congregation and a contingent of school children then braved pouring rain in order to see how each tree needed to be planted and cared for.’
On the final day of the ‘Madiba’s footprints’ tour of the Eastern Cape, the tree planting team headed to Nelson Mandela’s birthplace, Mvezo, en route to East London. This planting took place at the Nelson Mandela Open Air Museum and included an address by Mvezo’s acting chief, Nolusapho Mandela (the mother of Madiba’s grandson Mandla Mandela) as well as a greeting and introduction from each of the attending council members, which included two of Nelson Mandela’s nephews.
‘Our first tree was planted no more than 20 metres from Madiba’s birthplace (also known as ‘The Great Place’) and once again, we were taken aback by the involvement and appreciation of all of those in attendance,’ Eves stated. ‘This initiative allowed our team to meet wonderful new people, see places we never had before, support these communities and, most importantly, pay tribute to uTata Mandela: one of South Africa’s greatest men it was indeed an incredible honour.’