South Africa celebrates Mandela's birthday

Thu, Jul 19, 2012, 01:00

NELSON MANDELA’S 94th birthday party was a low-key affair, according to family members who spent the day with him yesterday, but across South Africa tens of thousands of people were busy doing good deeds in his name.

NGOs, charities, schools and orphanages were inundated with offers of help from large companies and the public, who wanted to do their bit for Mandela Day, which calls on volunteers to spend 67 minutes doing community service in honour of Mr Mandela.

Mandela Day commemorates the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s 67 years of service to humanity.

At the start of the school day, about 12 million schoolchildren across South Africa sang happy birthday to Mr Mandela, who was at his home in the village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape province.

Former US president Bill Clinton visited Mr Mandela on Tuesday, as did US first lady Michelle Obama, to convey their best wishes.

The anti-apartheid icon has been frail recently, and spent a few days in hospital earlier this year.

However, Mrs Obama told reporters that Mr Mandela “looked strong, he looked good, he looked . . . happy. And that was good to see.”

Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesman Sello Hatang said Mr Mandela was celebrating his birthday with just his close family, even though a much larger celebration was taking place in Qunu.

His granddaughter Ndileka Mandela told the Sowetan newspaper the family would celebrate with a traditional meal of tripe and samp, a corn dish popular in Mr Mandela’s province.