Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, has committed 67 years of his life to the cause of humanity and justice, spending 27 years in prison for resisting white minority apartheid rule.
As part of honouring Mandela whose birthday was last year recognised by the United Nations as “Nelson Mandela International Day”, the day was set aside to reflect on the great man’s many years of political life. Messages of best wishes across the world continue to pour on the frailing anti-apartheid hero as he celebrates the day with family and friends in his Johannesburg home.
The former president of Finland hailed Mandela for giving 67 years of his life, exhorting people to do the same by offering 67 minutes of their lives to change the world for the better. Martti Ahtisaari is a member of an independent group of eminent global leaders formed by Mandela.
After his release in 1999, Mandela was elected into office four years later, serving only one term in office. He was replaced by Thabo Mbeki.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Mandela as “a hero to people of all backgrounds whose story is filled with an amazing strength and integrity of spirit.”
“There is no one more deserving of this unprecedented international recognition, and I am delighted to offer him my warmest wishes on this special day,” she said.
Jimmy Carter, former US president said, “Nelson Mandela has given us a wonderful opportunity and duty to do something positive and active on Mandela Day.”
His previous birthdays were celebrated in the village in grand style. But according to his family, a group of 92 children from villages around his childhood home in Eastern Cape province would celebrate the day with him.
South Africa’s president, who is expected to address thousands of villagers at Mandela’s birthplace of Mvezo, one of the poorest areas in the country, had urged villagers to emulate Mandela by dedicating 67 minutes of their time helping each other.
“Madiba’s 67 years of uninterrupted and selfless service to the people of South Africa and the world culminated in the birth of a new South Africa, united in diversity,” said president Jacob Zuma.