Another July has passed in which we honoured our beloved late statesmen, Nelson Mandela. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in Mvezo, Transkei, on July 18 1918, and South Africans from all walks of life celebrate his legacy on Mandela Day on July 18, and during Mandela Month for the whole of July.
The manufacturing team at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) honoured Madiba by transforming a Ford Ranger into a unique piece of mobile art for donation to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
The iconic statesman established the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999 after stepping down as president of South Africa.
“At Ford we are very proud of our South African heritage,” says FMCSA managing director Neale Hill.
“No one did more in pursuit of the South African dream than Madiba himself and it is thus a privilege to be able to hand over this one-of-a-kind Ranger to the worthy Nelson Mandela Foundation.”
The car is adorned with the South African flag on its roof and a portrait of Mandela on the bonnet, while its side panels and rear tailgate pay further tribute to his foundation and celebration of Mandela Day.
The designs were all done by hand by four talented artists working in Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant’s paint shop in Pretoria, where the Ranger is produced.
It took 48 hours of painstaking work – mostly outside of the team’s normal working hours – to complete the artwork. Manufacturing engineering manager Dorah Mmekwa, who led the project, says: “For all of us at the paint shop this was a very exciting and humbling opportunity that gave our artists an opportunity to showcase their skills.”
She admits the team were quite nervous at first.
“Mandela’s image is so iconic, and the team were eager to do him and the foundation justice. Once they got started it was clear there was no need to be anxious.
“The vehicle looks superb and we are all extremely proud to have been a part of its creation.” This is not the first time Ford has created art Rangers.
In 2019, employees at Silverton created Stimela in celebration of Heritage Month.
“Stimela was a tribute to Ford’s proud 96-year manufacturing history locally, as well as a fitting representation of our nation’s rich heritage and diversity,” Ockert Berry, Ford’s VP of manufacturing, says.
The Heritage Day tribute car sported a giant national flag all the way from below the grille, up and across the bonnet, and over the roof of the double cab. The tailgate was decorated with Ndebele tribal art, and a map of South Africa showing the location of Ford’s plants in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.
“Just like Stimela, Mandla – as the latest Ranger is now known – is a fully functional vehicle, right off the same assembly line as all the other Ranger, Ranger Raptor and Everest models built in South Africa,” Berry adds.
Ford’s tradition of naming its art cars gave nearly 3,500 staff a chance to participate in the fun. They could submit their title of choice for the car and Mandla was ultimately selected.
“It pays homage to the powerful slogan Amandla, Awethu that was often chanted by Tata Nelson Mandela when he had his fist clenched up in the air,” says Hill.
“That vision of him is still in so many South African’s memories and is a prominent feature of the artwork on the vehicle.
“In addition Mandla is a very popular Zulu/Xhosa name that means power or strength.” Mandla is not destined to be an exhibition piece as the Nelson Mandela Foundation will be putting the Ranger to work in their various education and upliftment projects.
“We are honoured to accept this generous donation from the Ford team,” says Yase Godlo of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“The last few weeks we have been engaging regularly with the team on the project.
“Ford’s passion and commitment to making the vehicle a unique and fitting tribute to Mr Nelson Mandela has been admirable.”