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South Africa gears up for Mandela's birthday

South Africa gears up for Mandela's birthday
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South Africans are preparing to celebrate the 95th birthday of their former leader and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela.

The country’s first black president is held up by many in the country and worldwide as an icon for the struggle against injustice and colonialism.

“A real pioneer, a real stalwart and thank you for all that you have done for this country,” said South African Margaret Chechie, referring to Mandela.

Jason Bartey said Mandela was a very influential figure in the country: “He’s actually a source of inspiration for a lot of South Africans. You know to go through what he did and actually come out of it and be so compassionate, I think that is a good thing and well, you know, get well soon.”

“Nelson Mandela is synonymous with the reputation and the good name of this country. He is one of those iconic figures who has come to represent not only what South Africa stands for but what we as a country are trying to contribute to the world,” said Miller Matola, chief executive of Brand South Africa.

Mandela is still in a serious condition at Pretoria Hospital, but the country is holding celebrations and charity events to mark his birthday.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma will oversee the donation of houses to some of the poorer families in the Pretoria area.

Many South Africans have commemorated the day by undertaking 67 minutes of public service to honour the 67 years Mandela spent fighting against white-minority rule and working towards reconciliation and racial harmony as president.

In 2009 the United Nations declared July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day.

Commemorations and tributes to Mandela will be held in many countries around the world.