18 July 2008
Messages of congratulations, tributes and good wishes are pouring in from home and abroad, from ordinary people and influential leaders alike, for former South African president Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday.
President Thabo Mbeki extended his message on behalf of the entire nation to the internationally revered statesman and former political prisoner on Friday.
“We are proud as South Africans that Mr Mandela and his generation of fighters embraced with both passion and reason the mission that history imposed on them and more than met the demands that it enjoined them to fulfil,” he said in Pretoria on Friday.
Mbeki said South Africans glowed in the light of fame because the country stood on the shoulders of icons such as Mandela.
Harmony and equality
He recalled Mandela’s statement at the opening of the defence case in the Rivonia Trial in the Pretoria Supreme Court on 20 April 1964: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities,” Mandela said back then.
“It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Mbeki urged the current generation to return to the question of their mission and how to fulfil it, as conditions and circumstances evolved, much in the same way that Mandela’s generation had to discover and fulfil its mission.
“Finding answers to this question simultaneously as we celebrate his birthday is perhaps the biggest present we can give to Nelson Mandela,” said Mbeki. “Many happy returns – ukhule ukhokhobe!”
An inspiration to all
In her birthday message to Mandela, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said he has been a true inspiration to her, to the country, its leaders, citizens and mostly, young South Africans.
“He has lived true to the principle of ‘be the change you want to see in the world’,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
Director General in the Office of the Presidency Frank Chikane said that as the first president of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa, Mandela had laid a solid foundation for the emergence of democratic government that continued to serve the nation with pride.
Apart from wishing Mandela on his birthday, Chikane said the Cabinet was also congratulating him on his 10th wedding anniversary.
“You have left us a rich legacy from which government abundantly draws inspiration as it works for reconstruction and development, economic prosperity and national unity,” Chikane said. “Siyavuyisana nawe. Sikunqwenelela usuku olumnandi kunye nosapho lwakho, (We congratulate you. We wish you a happy birthday with your family), Happy Birthday Madiba.”
An ‘icon of humanity’
Fifa President Sepp Blatter also added the organisation’s message of good wishes, which includes a special birthday video message to pay tribute to Mandela, an “icon of humanity”, which will be aired by the South African Broadcasting Corporation and can also be viewed at the Fifa website.
“Today, the football worldwide will celebrate the 90th birthday of Nelson Mandela, an extraordinary man who has dedicated his life to the promotion of human rights and democracy,” Blatter said.
2010 Fifa World Cup Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan said the number “90” was usually synonymous with the beautiful game of football. “Today, however, the number 90 is synonymous with just one thing – Nelson Mandela turning the ripe old age of 90,” he said.
Jordaan recalled how Mandela reacted when South Africa won the right to host the world cup. “With tears welling up in his eyes, Madiba declared that he ‘feels like a young man of fifteen’,” he said, adding “His has been a life of hardships, yet he showed no signs of bitterness, anger of hatred towards he captors who imprisoned him for 27 years.”