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On July 18 Nelson Mandela celebrated his 94th birthday with a ‘quiet’ family gathering in the village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Mandela, from the Madiba clan, is the former South African President, and the first black president of South Africa.
Mandela spent 27 years in jail for an armed anti-apartheid campaign. When he was released in 1990 he ran for election in 1994 and won with the African National Congress party. The year 1994 was the first year that black South Africans were allowed and able to vote. After one term he stepped down in 1999 to give the Presidency to Thabo Mbeki. Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize for the work he completed in his public life.
Every year in South Africa Mandela’s birthday is a large event. This year the day started off with a special song made for Mandela’s birthday. Twelve million school children sang the song across the country which included the lines “we love you father.”
Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said that South Africans should be very grateful to “live in the same country, breathing the same air, under the same sun with Nelson Mandela.” Sexwale also coined the phrase “Mandela-ism: the spirit of selflessness, sacrifice…”
Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu claimed “Mr. Mandela taught us to love ourselves, to love one another and to love our country.”
Several famous US figures also celebrated Mandela’s birthday. On July 17 Mandela met with Bill and Chelsea Clinton and they helped him plant avocado and pear trees in his village. Barrack and Michelle Obama issued a statement praising Nelson Mandela’s “extraordinary life and steadfast commitment to the principles of democracy and reconciliation.”
Several schoolchildren also commented on Mandela and his service. Ten year old Thakgalo Ditabe stated, “Nelson Mandela set an example to show us that reconciliation is possible.” Twelve year old Ntando Ntuli said, “he is my hero because he fought for us. He is an icon, the king of Africa.
In South Africa Mandela’s birthday is a day of giving to the poor. Individuals are supposed to spend at least 67 minutes of time helping those less fortunate in celebration of Mandela’s 67 years of service. This UN-backed initiative has been criticized, according to the BBC, because it allows those at the top to not feel guilty instead of change things.
According to the Washington Post South Africa still has a lot of progressing to do. The education system is still terrible and the economy is still controlled by a minority white population.
Image Courtesy of Archives de la Ville de Montréal