19 July 2013
President Jacob Zuma has thanked South Africans and people around the world for their support and display of love for the country’s former president on Nelson Mandela International Day.
Thousands of people from around the country and the world took time to roll up their sleeves and help the less fortunate on Thursday, Mandela’s 95th birthday.
“This year has seen the biggest Madiba birthday celebration ever. We regard this … as a fitting tribute to the triumph of the South African people against institutionalised racism, led by Madiba and many other illustrious freedom fighters,” Zuma told a press conference after the conclusion of the 6th South Africa-European Union Summit in Pretoria on Thursday.
Zuma reported that the 95-year-old, who is spending his 6th week in hospital, was steadily improving. “Madiba’s condition in hospital continues to improve steadily and we are very encouraged by this development.”
European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and EU Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, who led the EU delegation to the one-day summit, were also touched by “the Madiba magic”.
In his opening remarks at the summit, Van Rompuy said he was privileged to be in South Africa on Mandela’s birthday, adding that Mandela’s was proof that ethics and politics could go hand-in-hand.
“President Mandela is in our thoughts and prayers right now. His contribution to the struggle for democracy and the promotion of a culture of peace and reconciliation crosses national borders,” Van Rompuy said
Barroso said the EU Commission was continually inspired by Mandela’s vision, adding that the best way of honouring Mandela was to continue spreading and consolidating his legacy of peace, democracy, tolerance and social justice.
“Nelson Mandela’s walk will continue in the steps of every South African, and we are proud to continue walking that walk alongside you … President Zuma, and alongside all South Africans.”
Barroso said Mandela was loved by the South African people as well as by the whole world.
“Through his words, deeds, his vision and courage, he rises above life and death and wins a place in the gallery of the great personalities of mankind. More than ever, our thoughts are with him, his family and with all South Africans.”