Brightly painted wards and colourful furnishings are matched by state-of-the-art equipment and pioneering operating theatres at a new children’s hospital in Johannesburg honouring the late Nelson Mandela.
After he led the struggle to dismantle apartheid, one of Mandela’s most cherished dreams was to build the first specialist paediatric hospital in southern Africa.
To mark the third anniversary of his death on December 5 – and more than 10 years after he conceived the idea – the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital admits its first patients on December 2.
His dream materialised after a successful battle for funds despite the global economic downturn and the difficulties of inspiring donors without Mandela’s charm and iconic presence.
“It’s a miracle, or just short of a miracle. The children’s hospital was a dream,” said Sibongile Mkhabela, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.
Mandela, who was South Africa’s first post-apartheid president from 1994-1999, officially started the project in July 2009 at the site of an old cricket ground.
Much of the fund-raising took place as Mandela became increasingly frail and unable to lobby for donations.
“We needed $100 million (R1.4 billion); we had not a penny,” said Mkhabela.
“It was very difficult to do it without him … extremely difficult, but people were ready to hear us. People could relate to his vision. There are a number of ways that you can remember him; he was a statesman. You could build a statue … but at his core, he loved children.”