Mandela turns 92 as S. Africa soars
Anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela celebrates his 92nd birthday at
home with his family on Sunday, just one week after the World Cup showed
off the successes of democratic South Africa.
“The man who has suffered so much and who, when he came out (of jail)
set out to bring peace, solidarity and humanity, he had a dream, and his
dream was to see the World Cup in his country,” FIFA president Sepp
Blatter said this week.
“That dream has now come true.”
After spending 27 years in an apartheid prison, Mandela emerged in
1990 to lead South Africa to elections that made him president in 1994.
He stayed in power for only one term, but even out of office remained
one of the driving forces behind bringing the World Cup to South Africa.
“As a unifier and a world symbol for peace, (he) knew the role the
event will play in uniting and deepening the spirit of patriotism our
nascent democracy so much thirsted,” said the committee charged with
organising commemorations of his birthday.
“People of different races, colour or creed came together under a
singular national identity,” said the committee which bridges government
The World Cup flatly dismissed the racist fears of the apartheid era,
said Verne Harris, historian at the Mandela Foundation.
“In terms of the struggle against oppression and white domination,
there is a narrative from the apartheid area that black South Africans
would not be able to run this country efficiently and effectively,” he
“What an event like this does, it provides an opportunity to show
that it is not true, we can deliver at the highest levels.” Despite his
advanced age and his grief over his great-granddaughter, killed in a car
accident on the eve of the tournament, Mandela braved the winter cold to
appear for a few moments at the July 11 final.
In gloves, hat and overcoat, he sat next to his wife Graca Machel in
an open vehicle to tour the pitch and wave to the fans before Spain’s
victory over Netherlands.
One week later, he will celebrate his birthday at his Johannesburg
home with his family and nearly 100 children from villages around his
childhood home in the rural Eastern Cape province.
But this year the world will celebrate with him on the first “Nelson
Mandela International Day”, which the United Nations decided in November
would be observed every year on his birthday to recognise his struggle
for peace and freedom. The UN General Assembly will hold an informal
session on Friday in honour, while the UN mission in Darfur is
organising a ‘football for peace’ tournament.
In a chance of history, Madrid was chosen months ago by Mandela’s
AIDS charity 46664 to host the first annual concert in honour of the
former president, which will now enjoy the euphoria of Spain’s World Cup
The Mandela Foundation is asking people around the world to give 67
minutes of their time to volunteer work - one minute for every year that
he spent in the struggle for equality.
To publicise that call, celebrities are journeying on motorcycles
from Johannesburg to Cape Town. They will be welcomed on arrival Sunday
by Morgan Freeman, the American actor who played Mandela in the film ‘Invictus’.
South African political leaders will also do their bit. Ministers and
parliamentarians have promised to roll up their sleeves for volunteer
projects in the Eastern Cape, where President Jacob Zuma will give a
speech Sunday in Mandela’s hometown.
JOHANNESBURG, Friday (AFP)