School children all over South Africa, have been joining in the 94th birthday celebrations for former president Nelson Mandela.
Around 12 million across the country simultaneously sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to their nation’s first black democratically-elected head of state. ‘Mandiba’ – an affectionate name used for him – was written on their cards.
“I would send him a gift and a card. I would write that I will always love him because he gave us freedom,” said one young boy at a school in Johannesburg’s Soweto township.
The day before his birthday, Mandela, who no longer makes public appearances, received a visit from former US president Bill Clinton.
Gratitude and happiness were the overriding themes of birthday messages from the people of Johannesburg.
“If was not for him, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t even be smiling again and saying we are one as a rainbow nation,” said Sello Sebogwane.
“When I talk about you (Mandela) I feel like crying. I’m talking about the hero. The man who has spent years in jail for us. You worked for the nation, you helped black people spending 27 years in jail at Robben Island. You did not enjoy your life. God bless you, we still love you and wish you a happy birthday,” added Salome Makgamatho, who was overcome with emotion.
July 18 is International Mandela Day, where people can mark his 67-year struggle by helping others for 67 minutes.