South Africa celebrates Mandela’s birthday

Updated
By Daniel Levinsohn
Children sing Happy Birthday to former President Nelson Mandela at a school in Atteridgevile near Pretoria, July 18, 2013.
Children sing Happy Birthday to former President Nelson Mandela at a school in Atteridgevile near Pretoria, July 18, 2013.
Mike Hutchings/Reuters

It’s been over a month since former South African President Nelson Mandela was hospitalized in “critical but stable condition” with a severe lung infection. Despite reports that he was on life support, the still-bedridden Mandela has managed to see his 95th birthday. The government offered a hopeful recent statement, claiming “doctors have confirmed that [Mandela’s] health is steadily improving.”

Mandela has never backed down from a righteous fight. As a student at Fort Hare University College, he was expelled for participating in protests. In 1952, Mandela teamed with politician Oliver Tambo to create South Africa’s first black law practice. And between 1964 and 1982, the anti-apartheid revolutionary was imprisoned on Robben Island for “conspiracy to use violence to overthrow the present government”; he’d spend a total of 27 years in South African jails for battling entrenched racist policies.

In a fitting testament to Mandela’s political and personal triumphs, South Africans of all colors and ages have celebrated today’s milestone through song, prayer–and community service. Citizens were asked to spend 67 minutes performing charitable acts to mark Mandela’s 67 years of public contributions, whether through donating blood or cleaning up trash.

“It’s basically a call for action for the whole world to do something for 67 minutes,” said Mandela’s granddaughter Zaziwe Dlamini Manaway. “To be selfless, to do something to better someone else’s life, someone else’s cause.”

 

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South Africa celebrates Mandela's birthday

Updated