Wednesday 22 November 2017

Mandela 'improving' as millions mark beloved leader's 95th birthday

Bill Clinton at an informal UN assembly held in Mandela's honour
Bill Clinton at an informal UN assembly held in Mandela's honour
Nelson Mandela

Aislinn Laing Pretoria

Millions of people around the world celebrated Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday as President Jacob Zuma said he was "steadily improving" after weeks in hospital.

Mr Mandela's family say that, despite still being on a ventilator, he is now able to sit in a chair and watch television and they hope he may return home soon. He was admitted to Pretoria's Heart Hospital on June 8 suffering from a recurring lung infection.

Charitable events to celebrate the internationally designated 'Nelson Mandela Day' were held around the world. The UN hosted an informal General Assembly in his honour, featuring former United States President Bill Clinton, singer and activist Harry Belafonte and co-prisoner and Mandela friend Andrew Mlangeni.

Mr Clinton recalled the day Mandela walked out of prison at last. Years later Clinton asked Mandela if he allowed himself to hate his captors.

For a brief moment, the man who became a symbol of peace gave in to hate, he told Clinton. Then he let go.

"He said: 'People can take everything. I lost my family, the chance to see my children grow up, the best years of my life. They can take everything except your mind and your heart, those things I decided not to give away," Clinton said. "He looked at me and smiled and he said, 'Neither should you'."

In South Africa, hundreds of people bearing cards, balloons and flowers gathered for an impromptu party outside the hospital where Mr Mandela is being treated. Esther Wayo (63) was among a group of pensioners from Soshanguve township who hired a bus to take them to the hospital. "Madiba (Mr Mandela's clan name) is everything to me," she said.

Mr Mandela's granddaughter Ndileka took food to a children's home in Pretoria before visiting him in hospital. She said the increased numbers doing good to celebrate his birthday was a "wonderful present". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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