Nelson Mandela spends 95th birthday in hospital

Nelson Mandela is spending his 95th
birthday in hospital in Pretoria, as
events take place around the world
and in South Africa in his honour.
The former president and anti-apartheid
leader has been critically ill with a
recurring lung infection since 8 June.
South African President Jacob Zuma, who
visited Mr Mandela in hospital, said he
was "encouraged" by his progress.
South Africans have been urged to mark
Mr Mandela's 67 years of public service
with 67 minutes of charitable acts.
"When I visited him today... I was able to
say 'happy birthday' and he was able to
smile," Mr Zuma said in a statement.
"Mandela's struggle for freedom and
justice in our country and his values of
promoting a fair, just and equitable
world continues to inspire and motivate
us," he told a visiting EU delegation.
Children waved South African flags at the
Milton Mbekela school in the village of
Qunu, Mr Mandela's boyhood home.
Outside the hospital in Pretoria where the
former president is being treated, well-
wishers reached for balloons bearing his
image.
Mr Mandela's former wife, Winnie
Madikizela-Mandela, and members of his
family greeted the crowds outside the
hospital in Pretoria.
There was even birthday cake for those
gathered outside the hospital.
South Africans have been urged to mark Mr
Mandela's 67 years of public service with 67
minutes of charitable acts. These women
did so by taking part in a human food chain
in Johannesburg.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who campaigned
alongside Mr Mandela for an end to white-
minority rule, celebrated his old friend's
birthday at a primary school in Cape Town.
Revered
Mr Mandela's daughter, Zindzi, said he
was making "remarkable progress", and
that she had found him watching
television with headphones on and
communicating with his eyes and hands
when she visited him this week.
"We look forward to having him back at
home soon," the South African Press
Association quoted her as saying.
Mr Mandela's birthday is also Nelson
Mandela International Day, a day
declared by the UN as a way to recognise
the Nobel Prize winner's contribution to
reconciliation.
The former statesman is revered across
the world for his role in ending
apartheid in South Africa. He went on to
become the first black president in the
country's first multi-racial elections in
1994.
The governing African National Congress
(ANC) said that on this Mandela Day
homage was being paid to 95 years of
"life well-lived", dedicated to the
liberation of South Africans and people
all over the world.
Activities throughout the day included:
School-children across the country
singing a synchronised Happy
Birthday to the former president
Mandela family members handing
out gifts to Mamelodi township
residents before holding a birthday
lunch with Nelson Mandela. They
have prepared 95 cupcakes in his
honour
President Zuma visiting Mr Mandela
in hospital and overseeing the
donation of houses to poor white
families in the Pretoria area
Volunteers spending 67 minutes
each renovating schools and
orphanages, cleaning hospitals and
distributing food to the poor to
mark the former statesman's 67
years as a lawyer, activist, prisoner
and president
Mr Mandela becoming the first
recipient of South Africa's new
Smart ID Card, introduced on
Thursday. His card will be collected
on his behalf by his daughter Zindzi
The forming of a human chain from
Johannesburg's Fashion District into
the heart of the city
Events are also taking place
internationally, with an image of a large
Mandela painting by South African artist
Paul Blomkamp featured in New York's
Times Square.
British entrepreneur Richard Branson,
speaking in a recorded message, has
pledged 67 minutes of community
service on Thursday to "make the world
a better place, one small step at a time".
Meanwhile, concerts are planned later
this week in the Australian city of
Melbourne, featuring local and African
artists.
'Less anxious'
Mr Mandela's ill-health gives extra
poignancy to this year's Mandela Day,
correspondents say.
For South Africans, the best birthday
present for Mandela would be for him to
recover and be among the people who
love him most, says the BBC's Pumza
Fihlani in Johannesburg.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told a local
radio station her former husband's 95th
birthday was "a gift not only to the
family... but to the nation".
She rejected the "prophets of doom"
who have warned of chaos in South
Africa when Nelson Mandela dies.
"The country will solidify and come
together," she told Radio 702.
Mr Mandela's third wife, Graca Machel,
said last Friday that she was "less
anxious" about his health than before
and that he was continuing to respond
well to treatment.
Thursday also is the 15th anniversary of
the couple's marriage.
Ahead of the anniversary, Mr Mandela's
close friend and lawyer George Bizos
described them as "a loving couple", the
AFP news agency reports.