SA bows to world icon

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pretoria - At 08:05 on Monday morning, South African school children all over the country sang "Happy Birthday" to former President Nelson Mandela as he celebrates his 93rd birthday.

Approximately 12 million school children took part in this show of love to one of the most iconic leaders of our time.

From "Happy birthday dear Tata, we love you Tata," to "Nelson Mandela there is no one like you", the little voices sang on this cold winter morning. The occasion was televised by the national broadcaster.

In a birthday message by President Jacob Zuma, broadcasted before the kids' song, the President said Mandela has laid a solid foundation for this country and it was now up to South Africans to continue his legacy.

"From the moment Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela strode out of prison on the 11th of February 1990, we knew that South Africa would be a different place.

"He showed us that despite the divisive racial oppression and hardships that this nation had gone through, it is not only possible, but necessary to embrace one another and to reconcile the South African people," said Zuma.

"We have achieved a lot, but we must still work further to eradicate poverty and improve especially the lives of children, because Madiba loves them so much. Most importantly, we must spread love, ubuntu, humility and selflessness around us."

Mandela fever is expected to grip South Africans and indeed people across the world today. But no place will feel the spirit as much as the former Transkei region in the Eastern Cape, where Madiba was born.

Unlike in previous years, where the community used to join in the birthday celebrations, this year it will be a private affair as the grandfather of the nation spends the day quietly with his family in Qunu.

Pictures sent out by the Nelson Mandela Foundation on Sunday showed a frail but happy and content Mandela with his immediate family around him for a small gathering.

However, this has not deterred the world from celebrating his birthday. Birthday messages are coming in from all corners, with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter flooded with well wishes to the beloved old man.

Many of messages recount his life's achievements, while encouraging people to take a page out of his book by making a contribution to changing the world.

Facebook user Barbra Vhengedza wrote: "A true blessing to a mother, an honour to a family, nation and continet as a whole ... We thank the Lord for his mercy, grace and love to us through you. You are the father of Africa ... the unity of many nations. May God bless you and your family. Enjoy your day. Happy birthday!"

Christian Mbuyisa wrote: "Madiba, a hero, a man who led South African society from diversity, taking the road ahead in unity. You are a hero because you won. May God richly bless you from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Happy Birthday Tata Madiba."

Similar treads were also on Twitter, with Shashi Tarror writing: "Happy birthday to Nelson Mandela, statesman, nationalist &humanist, who guided South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy."

Some retweeted his famous quotes like: "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall," and "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

South Africans and the world are standing up and making a difference in their communities, and in the process, continuing the legacy of Madiba.

People have been urged to donate 67 minutes of their time doing good for others in his name.