Now Reading
Mandela's 93rd celebrated with song, volunteering

From the archive: This story is more than 10 years old.

Mandela's 93rd celebrated with song, volunteering

Millions of South African schoolchildren sing 'Happy Birthday'

  • screengrab

South Africans and people around the world are celebrating Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday with songs and voluntary work.

Mandela, who is frail, spent the day with his family in his home village of Qunu in South Africa's rural Eastern Cape.

Millions of South African school children simultaneously sang a special birthday song to Mandela.

The song "Happy Birthday Tata Madiba" was specially composed for Mandela's 93rd birthday and was sung at school assemblies across the country.

It was hoped that the target of 12.4 million schoolchildren singing the song would set a new world record for the number of people singing to an individual at the same time. The song was sung at township schools and rural schools, public schools and private schools across the country.

For the third year the Mandela foundation has urged people to do 67 minutes of voluntary work today — to represent the 67 years that Mandela devoted to South Africa's political struggle against apartheid. 

“The best way we can thank Nelson Mandela for his work is by taking action for others and inspiring change,” said Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, who endorsed the call. South African companies, charities and celebrities have all announced plans for voluntary work they will do today.

Mandela, who is a hero to many in South Africa and around the world for his long fight against white minority rule, has appeared increasingly frail since he retired from public life in 2004. He has been receiving round-the-clock medical care at home following his release from hospital in January where he was treated for an acute respiratory infection, says the BBC's Nomsa Maseko in Johannesburg.

Known to South Africans by his clan name Madiba, Mr Mandela has not appeared at a public engagement since the closing ceremony of the football World Cup in July 2010.

United States President Barack Obama said Mandela's life and legacy exemplified "wisdom, strength and grace." Obama's wife, Michelle, and their daughters met Mandela last month in Johannesburg during a visit to South Africa. Obama said his family's time with Mr Mandela was "the most moving part of their trip".

Mandela retired as South Africa's president in 1999 after serving one term, handing over to Thabo Mbeki.

After leaving prison in 1990 following 27 years in jail, Mandela campaigned to dismantle the apartheid system of white minority domination of South Africa's black majority. He led the African National Congress party to a landslide victory in 1994 — the first time South Africa's black majority was allowed to vote. Mandela won world admiration for his magnanimous actions that helped South Africa move peacefully toward majority rule democracy.

Mandela and white leader F.W. DeKlerk together won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to move South Africa to democracy.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

— 30 —

Best in Internet Exploder