South Africa celebrates Mandela’s 95th birthday Thursday
South Africans prepared for celebrations and charity work as a way to commemorate the birthday of former president Nelson Mandela, who turns 95 on Thursday in a hospital where he has been for weeks for a lung infection.
“It is obviously more significant now because of his medical condition,” said Noor Nieftagodien, an associate professor from the University of Witwatersrand. “Previously, his birthday embodied our democracy, but it’s profoundly more important now.”
The United Nations has declared Thursday to be Nelson Mandela International Day and urged people to use the occasion to honor his work to reconcile whites and blacks in South Africa. Mandela has been in a Pretoria hospital since June 8 and remains in a “critical but stable condition,” according to the government.
A Johannesburg foundation asked well-wishers to dedicate 67 minutes Thursday to charity in honor of the 67 years Mandela spent fighting to end racial segregation in South Africa.
“I’m supporting the SPCA (an animal charity) for my 67 minutes,” said Chantal du Toit, 42, a high school teacher.
President Jacob Zuma will mark the birthday by overseeing the donation of houses to poor white families in the Pretoria area. People visited the hospital Wednesday to pray for Mandela and leave get well cards.