South Africa celebrates Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday

July 18th, 2011 - 9:55 pm ICT by BNO News  

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (BNO NEWS) — Former South African President Nelson Mandela on Monday celebrated his 93rd birthday in his home village in South Africa, where millions of children joined the celebration by singing ‘Happy Birthday.’

Mandela, of Mvezo, the first president of South Africa to be elected democratically and 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been constantly recognized for his endless battle against racial segregation within and beyond the borders of his country. Last year, he received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the Laureate International Universities network to add to his more than 250 awards.

Madiba, as Mandela is oftentimes called, was honored by the United Nations (UN) in November 2009, when it announced the marking of the first-ever Nelson Mandela Day (July 18). On Monday morning, some 12 million South African children honored the former President by singing ‘Happy Birthday’ before classes began.

President Jacob Zuma personally visited Mandela at his residence where a brass band played, while U.S. President Barack Obama also sent his best wishes.

“Madiba continues to be a beacon for the global community, and for all who work for democracy, justice and reconciliation,” President Barack Obama said. “On behalf of the people of the United States, we congratulate Nelson Mandela, and honor his vision for a better world.”

President Obama, First Lady Michelle, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, recently met Madiba during an official visit to South Africa that focused on service, youth leadership, education and healthy living.

“Their time with Madiba was the most moving part of their trip,” Obama noted. “Mandela’s legacy exemplifies wisdom, strength and grace, and on the anniversary of his birth we salute the example of his life,” adding that Mandela showed his own people, and the world, the path to justice, reconciliation and democracy.

Before being elected as President, Mandela was a strong anti-apartheid activist and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress. He spent 27 years in prison after he was arrested and convicted in 1962 of ’sabotage’ crimes and other charges, and sentenced to life in prison. Much of his prison term was served on Robben Island.

Mandela was released on February 11, 1990 and became president only four years later, leading the country with a multi-racial administration.

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