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Facebook posts slightly modify poverty-apartheid quote by Mandela

Did Nelson Mandela say these words, often attributed to him? “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.”

The quote, usually posted with a photograph of the former president of South Africa, has been online since at least June 2015. It has been shared a number of times on Facebook.

But did he really say it? We looked up the quote.

Mandela said something very similar

A Google search of the quote reveals that it has been attributed to Mandela by publications such as Global Citizen and humanitarian organisations like Oxfam and the UN Development Programme .

However, a slightly different quote is published in a Facebook post from the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which Mandela founded after stepping down as president of South Africa in 1999. 

It says: “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” This version of the quote was also carried in news reports by British newspapers the Telegraph and the Guardian.

According to the Guardian, Mandela went on to say: “And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.

Both articles reported that Mandela said these words on 3 February 2005 at a rally held at Trafalgar Square in London, United Kingdom, during the Make Poverty History campaign. The BBC also carried a full transcript of the speech.

A video of Mandela giving the speech is available on the ONE campaign’s YouTube channel, confirming the three media outlets’ version. 

The quote circulating on Facebook is a case of broken telephone, mixing up what Mandela actually said, though the meaning stays essentially the same. – Vincent Ng’ethe 


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