Ubuntu in Action – The inspiring legacy of the Donaldson Trust
Mandela Month, celebrated annually in July, is a special time dedicated to honouring the extraordinary legacy of Nelson Mandela. This month serves as a global call to action, encouraging people from all walks of life to embrace the spirit of ubuntu – the philosophy of compassion, empathy, and unity. It is a time for individuals and communities to engage in acts of kindness, service, and social upliftment.
Chartered client Benjy Donaldson is the epitome of someone who embraces the spirit of ubuntu. He actively manages the Donaldson Trust, founded in 1936 by his grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel James Donaldson. Benjy has been involved with the Trust for over 50 years. The Donaldson Trust is the oldest private trust fund dedicated to improving black social development in South Africa. Colonel Donaldson’s profound concern for the rights of black South Africans was ignited in 1935 when he witnessed draft legislation that aimed to strip them of their voting rights in the Cape. He took action by financing the All-African Congress leaders’ trip to Cape Town to lobby MPs and rally public support, successfully thwarting the passage of the bill.
Throughout its history, the Donaldson Trust has relentlessly addressed the profound inequalities in South African society. It has played a vital role in constructing essential infrastructure such as hospitals, dams, schools, and universities, including the renowned Donaldson Wing at Fort Hare University and the iconic Donaldson Orlando Community Centre (DOCC) in Soweto. The DOCC holds significant historical value, having witnessed Nelson Mandela’s boxing journey and Miriam Makeba’s first-ever performance.
The Trust’s dedication to uplifting the disadvantaged encompasses a wide array of projects, spanning education, youth initiatives, HIV/AIDS-related programs, agricultural support, mental health, disability initiatives, and hospices. According to Benjy, the Trust focuses on seed money projects, not ongoing funding. Operating on a pro bono basis, the trustees meet quarterly at the Priory of St John in Westcliff, Johannesburg, to allocate funds solely towards empowerment and upliftment. For Benjy and the trustees, it’s not just about giving funds but understanding the challenges many face and fostering genuine change.
Benjy is very humble about the impact the Trust has made on the lives of South Africans over the years. Yet, the legacy created by his family serves as a reminder that each of us has the power to make a difference, no matter how small our actions may seem.