NELSON Mandela Bridge was a soothing blue when Nonceba Molwele turned on the lights yesterday evening for World Diabetes Day.

Accompanied by the first lady, Bongiwe Ngema-Zuma; the portfolio head of community development, Chris Vondo; City officials; and representatives Diabetes South Africa, Molwele, the mayoral committee member for health and human development, led the countdown on the rooftop of the 13-storey Skyline Gardens building in Braamfontein.

World Diabetes Day is observed annually on 14 November.

Guests gasped in wonder as blues lights on the famous bridge, which links Braamfontein and Newtown across a spider’s web of railway tracks, flickered on at exactly 7pm. The rail carriages and tracks below turned sky blue, and a few motorists stopped their cars on the side of the road, snapping shots of this rare moment.

The rooftop gave a bird’s eye view of the scene. Molwele said the colour blue symbolised diabetes awareness, a chronic condition that claimed thousands of lives worldwide. “This year marks the third year of the five-year focus on the campaign on diabetes through the theme Diabetes Education and Prevention.

“As a country and city in particular, we have to take stock of the progress made in highlighting the need for our people to minimize the risk of type two diabetes (non-insulin dependent) in particular. I highlight type two diabetes, ladies and gentlemen, because most of our adults are affected by type two diabetes.”

Molwele said education would go a long way in paving the way for effective prevention, and effective prevention would result in more resources being channelled to other offerings within the City’s health clinics. “Our clinics treat many of our people who are on chronic medication and diabetes is one of the ailments that we are dealing with on a daily basis.”

During the Joburg 2040 Growth and Development Strategy consultations, Molwele said that through the theme of health and poverty, the City had advocated for a healthy lifestyle for its citizens. “During the period of consultation with our people on GDS 2040, we were glad to know that our people recognised that exercise and diet were key to a healthy lifestyle.”


More than 350 million people live with diabetes worldwide and 3,5 million died from diabetic complications in 2004. About 80 percent of those who died “are from the middle and low-income countries like South Africa”, said the executive director of the City’s health department, Refik Bismilla. “Tonight’s event is to create awareness that diabetes is a killer disease.”

Ranga Kuni, the executive chairman of Diabetes South Africa, reiterated Bismilla’s statement, saying: “If we don’t do anything [about preventing diabetes] we will have a major problem on our hands. We have to set up a united front to tackle the problem.”

Ngema-Zuma said her foundation, the Bongi Ngema Foundation, supported Diabetes South Africa. She applauded the City for coming on board and showing a commitment to diabetes awareness. “Let’s act on diabetes now.”

Molwele encouraged those present to spread the diabetes education and prevention message. “This will go a long way in providing quality health care to our people,” she explained.

The evening was just one of a series of events that will be taking place in November to raise awareness of diabetes. Joburg’s department of health will also be running education programmes on diabetes, as well as screenings for diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight checks and eye screenings in all seven regions.

The health department foot soldiers, the Jozi Ihlomile volunteers, would play a central role in the education and prevention strategy during the campaign, according to Molwele.

“Let the lights glowing from Nelson Mandela Bridge brighten our vision towards the realisation of the objective of the campaign – diabetes education and prevention,” she said.