Nelson Mandela, an iconic anti-apartheid hero, on Sunday celebrated his 92nd birthday in Johannesburg. Leaders across the world, including US president Barack Obama, extended wishes to the frailing leader praising his “extraordinary vision, leadership, spirit, global politics and fight for human rights.”
“On behalf of the United States, I wish Nelson Mandela a very happy 92nd birthday. We are grateful to continue to be blessed with his extraordinary vision, leadership, and spirit,” Obama said.
“We strive to build upon his example of tolerance, compassion and reconciliation.”
Celebrants at Mandela’s birthday village event at Mvezo in Eastern Cape said it would be wonderful for him to celebrate his 100th birthday.
Mandela, a senior member of Mvezo Royal family, has had his birthday celebrated at Mvezo Royal Palace. The event was graced by thousands of people, including President Jacob Zuma. Celebrants arrived in helicopters and horseback.
Zuma paid homage to the Mvezo Royal Chief, Mandla Mandela, the grandson of the former president.
People and companies devoted 67 minutes providing services to their communities, with some companies offering free HIV testing and counselling.
Zuma called on South Africans to draw lessons from Mandela’s rich legacy, which included fighting for unity and human dignity.
“One of the lessons that we must draw from the Mandela legacy is that we must work together to entrench unity and solidarity in our country,” he said.
His birthday bash started off with visits from old friends and other invited guests who brought him gifts and cards.
Mandela and his wife, Graça Machel, also marked their 12th wedding anniversary. His second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela joined them at the private celebration.
Officials from the Nelson Mandela Foundation team up with South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) to hand over gifts: books, toys, blankets and birthday cake to orphans and vulnerable children.
“We’ve come to give these children a good day,” said Boniswa Nyati, the Foundation’s Information Resources Officer.
“We want to make them feel happy and special. We want to make them feel loved because that’s very special to them,” she said.
“Mr Mandela wants us to do this every day; these kids must feel that there is someone who loves them. Even if they don’t have mothers or fathers, there will always be people like Madiba who are there for them.”
SAQA’s Director of the National Learners’ Records Database Yvonne Shapiro asked people to “make an amazing difference” though they don’t have to be like Mandela.
“Whether you are a Mandela or anyone else, your contribution in your own part of the world is the most important thing.”