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One million t-shirts for Madiba

Written by Amukelani Chauke

As the world prepares to mark the centenary of former President Nelson Mandela’s birthday next month, a leading Cape Town textile and apparel firm has put its machinists at the forefront of a campaign to produce one million t-shirts to celebrate him. Some of the ladies who are employed with Trade Call Investments (TCI) Apparel (PTY) Ltd who wrote their stories on the t-shirts that will be sold locally and globally in line with the Nelson Mandela Centenary Celebration. [Credits:] Nelson Mandela Foundation Twitter page

Trade Call Investments (TCI) Apparel (PTY) Ltd has taken a selfless approach by giving its factory workers space to write their stories on the labels of the t-shirts that will be sold locally and globally.

TCI Apparel has partnered up with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to design, manufacture and sell t-shirts bearing Nelson Mandela’s image to raise awareness around the centenary celebrations. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Foundation. 

Chief Commercial Officer Thilu Govender said the company was proud to be associated with the project.

“I think it has been amazing for us. When we look at the legacy of the great Madiba, we feel really proud that we are the pioneers of such an initiative jointly with the Foundation. It gives us a sense of pride that we have brought this campaign to all nations that knew and loved him.”

Govender said TCI decided that to honour Madiba’s legacy by asking  the seamstresses to write their own messages.

Some messages from the women behind the sewing machines

In their own words, the seamstress crafted their own brief stories on the t-shirts.

“My name is Nomvula Masondo. I am a seamstress working in a clothing factory in Ladysmith, South Africa

“I made your special t-shirt with lots of care”.

 I have worked in the clothing industry for 35 years. My work has contributed tremendously to the quality of my life. With the money I earn, I am able to support my family and my eldest child who is doing second year at college.”

“My name is Chevonne Swarts. I am 28 years old. I am a seamstress working in a clothing factory in Cape Town, South Africa.

I am the mother of a 10 year old boy.

“I made your special t-shirt with lots of care”.

My dream is to educate and provide for my child. By buying this t-shirt you are contributing not only to my dream but to those of my fellow workers.”

Half a million t-shirts made so far

Govender said the t-shirts were produced to have the DNA of Africa - with the fabric being sourced within the continent and the entire manufacturing value chain being localised.

The initiative was recently launched at two separate events in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The t-shirts will be available for sale at leading retailers for local customers, and can be bought on-line for international clients through the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s website.