NELSON Mandela turned 92 yesterday as US President Barack Obama and other world leaders hailed the anti-apartheid icon’s contribution to global politics and the fight for human rights.
“We are grateful to continue to be blessed with his extraordinary vision, leadership, and spirit,” Obama said in Washington as an increasingly frail Mandela celebrated quietly with extended family at his home in Johannesburg.
“We strive to build upon his example of tolerance, compassion and reconciliation,” said the US president.
Former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda was among the few invited guests who joined a private family gathering, Mandela’s office said, adding that his grandchildren presented him with a three-tier cake and sang “happy birthday dear granddad”.
“He is very well... he is healthy and taking into account the kind of life he had, it is really heartening... he is getting old, he is getting frail but he is absolutely healthy, full of life, spirits high,” Mandela’s wife Graca Machel said. “We will gather at home, we will sit around, give him a lot of love,” said Machel.
The occasion marked the first annual Nelson Mandela International Day. Ordinary people in South Africa and abroad have committed to devoting 67 minutes of their time to community service, to mark the number of years Mandela spent in politics, an initiative backed by global figures like former US president Jimmy Carter and Martti Ahtisaari of Finland.
“I encourage us all to heed the call to engage in some form of service to others, in honour of the 67 years of sacrifice and service Madiba gave to us,” said Obama, referring to South Africa’s first black president by his nickname.
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