Millions of South African schoolchildren sang happy birthday to Nelson Mandela as he celebrated his 93rd birthday on Monday while politicians and ordinary citizens did charity work to support his call to do good.
For the third year, at the request of his charitable foundation, 18 July is observed as Mandela Day which calls for volunteers to carry out good for 67 minutes, representing each year of Mandela’s life in active politics.
Mandela spent his birthday with his family at his childhood village Qunu in the Eastern Cape province.
“He’s just going to have a relaxing time with his family,” Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesman Sello Hatang said.
His grandson, chief Mandla Mandela said the family would give blankets to elderly people around his nearby birthplace of Mvezo.
Similar charitable activities were underway around the country. A group of bikers left Johannesburg at the beginning of the week to cross the country doing voluntary work in poor communities. Their 2,200-kilometre trip ends Monday in Tshwane South Africa’s capital.
Meanwhile, schools and orphanages are opening their doors to volunteers to clean and paint, while blood banks are operating extra hours for an anticipated rush of donors.
Others are donating food, clothes, books and toys to charity.
President Jacob Zuma, who planned to visit Mandela in Qunu after meeting with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron in Tshwane, used the occasion to call for greater efforts to end poverty.
“We have achieved a lot, but we must still work further to eradicate poverty and improve especially the lives of children, because Madiba loves them so much, Zuma said, using Mandela’s clan name.
Zuma was also expected to launch a drive to increase membership in the ruling African National Congress “as part of realising ANC stalwart Mandela’s dream and that of his organisation.”
Increasingly frail with age, Mandela was last seen in public just before his 92nd birthday, when he and his third wife Graca Machel made an appearance at the football World Cup final in Johannesburg.
As South Africa’s first black president, Mandela is revered for having ushered in democracy and for his personal sacrifices in fighting the white apartheid regime.