Nelson Mandela has made “dramatic progress” and may be going home “any time soon” his daughter said as the former South African president celebrates his 95th birthday today.
“I visited him and he was watching television with headphones,” Zindzi Mandela told Sky TV yesterday. “He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand ... He responds with his eyes and his hands.”
Mr Mandela is gaining “energy and strength”, she said. “I should think he will be going home any time soon.”
The latest description by Zindzi – one of Mr Mandela’s daughters by his second wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela – is a significant improvement from court documents filed by the family earlier this month which said he was on life support and near death.
Mr Mandela has been in a Pretoria hospital since June 8 and officials say his condition is critical, but stable.
The news of the improvement in Mr Mandela’s health will boost his supporters in South Africa and around the world who are celebrating his 95th birthday today, a day declared by the United Nations as a way to recognise the Nobel Prize winner’s contribution to reconciliation.
Meanwhile US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle sent their wishes and prayers to Mr Mandela and said the world could honour him by heeding his example and serving others.
The couple met Mr Mandela’s family last month while in South Africa and visited Robben Island, where the anti-apartheid figure spent 18 years as a political prisoner.
The Obamas said they were deeply moved by the visit to the prison and Mr Mandela’s commitment to equality, dignity and reconciliation should be a beacon for future generations.
Interest in Nelson Mandela International Day has ignited as a result of his hospitalisation and people find ways to honour his ideals.
A Johannesburg-based foundation named after him and numerous other groups have asked people to volunteer 67 minutes to charity to match what they say are the 67 years that Mr Mandela served his community.
Mr Mandela led South Africa through a tense transition from apartheid to democracy and became president in the country’s first all-race elections in 1994.
President Jacob Zuma will mark the birthday by overseeing the donation of houses to poor white families in the Pretoria area, in line with his cabinet’s theme to commemorate Mr Mandela’s birthday this year by focusing on food security, shelter and literacy.
In Cape Town, union activists are holding an event at St. George’s Cathedral in remembrance of Mr Mandela’s years of service and to encourage people to donate food to charity while leaving messages of support for the former leader’s family.
The anti-apartheid leader has also inspired artists and graphic designers who celebrate his life through paintings and posters.
A group of young South African designers created a poster project to offer a global perspective of Mr Mandela with submissions from around the world. The group whittled down 700 posters submitted by designers from more than 70 countries, to 95 for each year of his life.
A single special edition was to be auctioned off to raise money for a proposed children’s hospital that will be named after Mr Mandela, the group said.
“He carries across this concept of humanity and selflessness,” said Mohammed Jogie, co-founder of the project.
South African artists John Adams and Paul Blomkamp have painted two of the largest Mandela paintings to honour the man who spent 27 years imprisoned during the system of white minority rule.
Mr Blomkamp said his painting was inspired by Mr Mandela’s energy, which he described as exceptional. Mr Blomkamp said an image of his painting would be featured in a display in New York’s Times Square today.
South Africa's president said today Mr Mandela's health continued to improve.
A statement from Jacob Zuma’s office said: “Madiba remains in hospital in Pretoria but his doctors have confirmed that his health is steadily improving.”