Mandela spends 95th birthday in hospital
Anti-apartheid leader has been receiving intensive treatment since early June
Schoolchildren sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to former South African president Nelson Mandela at Phefeni High School, opposite Mr Mandela’s former home in Soweto Township Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Children hold placards as they gather to wish the former president a happy birthday. Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
Well-wishers left messages to the former South African president on the sign outside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela is “steadily improving”, South Africa’s government claimed today as the former president spent his 95th birthday in hospital showered by tributes from around the world.
Thousands of South Africans led the global outpouring of support for the man regarded as the father of the multiracial Rainbow Nation established in 1994 when he was elected its first black president at the end of apartheid.
He has been receiving intensive treatment since June 8th for a recurring lung infection, his fourth stay in hospital in six months.
While many carried out volunteer work on UN-declared Nelson Mandela Day, his daughter Zindzi led government workers in singing “Happy Birthday” to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, one of numerous celebrations across the country.
“His doctors have confirmed that his health is steadily improving,” president Jacob Zuma’s office said in a statement.
“On behalf of government and all the people of South Africa, we wish Madiba a joyous 95th birthday,” it said using Mr Mandela’s traditional clan name.
Many in South Africa celebrated Mandela Day with 67 minutes of public service to honour the Mr Mandela. His former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela called the 95th birthday “a gift” to the nation.
“There are some prophets of doom who say the country will come to a standstill (when he dies),” she told Talk Radio 702. “The country will continue as it has always done. If anything, the country will solidify, come together and carry on.”
Across South Africa, office workers, students, soldiers and ordinary citizens marked Mandela Day by sprucing up orphanages, painting walls at schools and delivering food to the poor.
Mandela Day will be marked in nearly 20 US cities with commemorations around Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and by volunteers handing out South African oranges in New York.
Mr Mandela’s victory in the first multiracial elections in 1994 put an end to the apartheid system. Four years earlier, he was released from 27 years spent in prison under white minority rule, 18 of them at the notorious Robben Island penal colony.
“Tata (our father) is making this remarkable progress and we look forward to having him back home soon,” Zindzi Mandela said at an event where she received his newly revised government ID card.
She said the family planned to give her father a collage of family photographs for a present and have lunch together at the hospital where their patriarch is being treated.