Blind Amanzimtoti matriarch casts off some warmth in aid of Mandela Day

To commemorate Mandela Day, the nimble-fingered Anne Veenman (81), who is completely blind, knitted 130 scarves for the 67 Blanket Fund.

READ MORE ABOUT ANNE HERE: Hearts intertwined through a runaway ball of wool

The scarves will be hung from the trees at the Amanzimtoti Civic Centre on Thursday, 13 July, and will be available for free to those who are cold and seeking a little warmth.

Anne Veenman (centre) with her trusted carer, Anges Zondi and her daughter, Cheryl Potgieter show off some of the 130 beautiful scarves she crafted for Mandela Day 2017.


Tragically, the local woman lost her eyesight overnight. However, it has not stopped her from churning out many beautiful creations.

“I get a real kick out of my knitting,” said Anne. “By continuing with this hobby after I lost my eyesight, I taught myself and hopefully others the importance of never giving up on the things that make you happy, and make you, you.”

Anne knitted her first item at the tender age of eight.

“I knitted a scarf for my father,” she explained. “When I was 13-years-old, my mother asked me to knit a jersey for my father. It was the most beautiful jersey, but the sleeves were too short. My mother made me re-do it until it was perfect.”

Anne has been blessed with five children, eight grandchildren and even a great grandchild. Her family feeds her strength and support throughout her days.

“My daughter Cheryl is a huge help. She always ensures there is wool in the house for me,” she said.

“My mother and her knitting will surely leave a legacy,” said Cheryl. “Not a stitch in her scarves is dropped and the tension is always beautiful and even.”

Back in the day, Anne was known for her baked goods. “She was affectionately known as ‘the fudge queen of Toti’ for the amazing fudge she churned out,” added Cheryl. “Mom was just as well known for her Christmas cake and other baked treats.”

Wim and Anne are well remembered as The Book Man and The Knitting Lady.

In December 2013, Zelda la Grange, late former President Nelson Mandela’s trusted assistant, presented philanthropist and ‘Arts Angel’, Carolyn Steyn with a challenge, to knit, sew or crochet 67 blankets. These blankets would then be distributed to those in need on Mandela Day.

The scarves hung up for the homeless along Addington beach in previous years.

Carolyn gladly accepted Zelda’s challenge but soon realised that she wouldn’t be able to achieve it alone.

She called on her friends for help and developed a Facebook group called ’67 Blankets for Mandela Day’. In just days, hundreds of people from around the world had pledged to knit a blanket.

Since then, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day has transformed into what some are calling a movement. It has captured the attention of many South African and international celebrities as well as corporates and ‘KnitWits for Madiba’ in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Cyprus, London, the US and India.

After just nine months, 67 Blankets for Mandela Day won Campaign of The Year at the South African Year Awards in 2014. On April 21, 2015, to mark 21 years of democracy in South Africa, 67 Blankets for Mandela Day smashed the Guinness World Record for the ‘The Largest Crochet Blanket in the World’ measuring 3,377 square metres at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Scarves crafted and hung up in other parts of the country on Mandela Day.


“South Africa’s ‘KnitWits’ are churning out numerous scarves for the 67 Blankets Secret Scarves,” said Carolyn Steyn, Founder of 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day. “The nationwide wool mission will culminate on 13 July at 3pm, with thousands of scarves being tied to trees for people in need to take at various spots across the country.”

As Madiba once said, “It’s in your hands now. I thank you.” And so the task of warming the homeless falls in the hands of the 67 Blanket KnitWits.

“Each scarf will have the special 67 Blankets trademark satin label sewn onto it and a special message attached, reading “I am not lost. If you are cold and need me, please take me. Love, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day,” said Carolyn.

A scarf showing the message that will be attached to all of them.


Locally, the scarves will be tied to the trees of the Amanzimtoti Civic Centre. The official Durban location will be opposite Addington Hospital on the beach.

Follow the event on Facebook: 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day (South Africa), Twitter: 67blankets and Instagram: 67blankets


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Holly Konig

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