Added by Nigel Shelbourne on July 18, 2011
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and anti-apartheid icon, celebrated his 93rd birthday on Monday as South Africans paid tribute to him in celebrations and community service projects.
Photos released of a smiling 93-year-old Mandela showed him surrounded by family, relatives, and former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Mandela’s public appearances have become increasingly rare, yet he held a private meeting with Michelle Obama last month and appeared at the closing ceremony of the FIFA World Cup in 2010.
U.S. President Barack Obama said of Mandela, “he is a beacon for the global community, and for all who work for democracy, justice, and reconciliation.” South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma visited Mandela at his home in the village of Qunu, about 1,000 km south of Johannesburg.
People around the world were asked to mark his birthday by volunteering 67 minutes in their local community. The number of minutes represents one minute for each year of Mandela’s public service. Millions of South African schoolchildren started their day singing a special version of Happy Birthday to Mandela.
South African businesses donated food, clothing, and other supplies to shelters across the country, plus the national blood service is using the occasion to appeal to people to donate blood.
Nazly Mayet, a mother of four who brought her children to a local community said Mandela is “the person that represents our freedom, opportunities for everyone. He seems quite fragile, but his spirit will live forever”.