Nelson Mandela celebrates his birthday, now declared by UN as "Nelson Mandela Day"


WITH his obituaries already mostly written and published, Nelson Mandela quietly turns 95 today, though it remains unclear whether the revolutionary hero has full cognisance of the milestone.
Mr Mandela remains gravely ill, but his wife, Graca Machel, told a Johannesburg radio station in recent days: "I am less anxious than I was a week ago."
The UN has declared July 18 International Nelson Mandela Day, with messages coming from world figures such as Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama, who have asked people to use the day to commit to small acts of kindness that can "change the world".
Unions are organising activities to mark the birthday in South Africa, including a 67km run (one kilometre for every year Mr Mandela fought for his people's rights), the building of a commemorative wall, and the dedication of schools in Mr Mandela's name.
South African President Jacob Zuma, who said Mr Mandela had responded to his presence with eye movements and the smallest of hand gestures, will use the day to make a statement that he hopes will bring the still-troubled country closer.
The President will attend the poor white community of Danville, in Pretoria, who have been living in informal settlements without electricity or running water, and hand new public housing to their control.
Mr Mandela, who has been hospitalised with a lung infection in Pretoria since June 8, where his condition is still described as critical, though slightly improved.
Remarks by former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, that Mandela could soon be discharged to return home have been variously interpreted as signs of hope or a signal that doctors can do nothing more for Mr Mandela, and will allow him to die at home.

The anti-Apartheid hero, who in 1990 emerged from 27 years as a political prisoner talking of reconciliation, is the widely seen as the most significant peacemaker of our times.
He won the presidency in 1994, using the role to unify rather than build power. He kept his vow to only serve one term.
Mr Mandela's illness has spared him from knowing the full unedifying details of ugly family feuds and attempts to cash in on his name.
Bloomberg News reports that a daughter and several grandchildren are using his name to sell alcohol and a reality TV show, "Being Mandela".
It said two of Mr Mandela's granddaughters had a clothing line called "Long Walk to Freedom", which borrowed the title of his best-selling autobiography.
There are also cases afoot among his heirs to seize trust funds, believed to contain enormous wealth.
His grandson, Mandla, also faces grave tampering charges after exhuming the bodies of three of Mr Mandela's children and relocating them without consulting the wider family.
Granddaughter Ndileka Mandela has revealed it has been difficult for the family to cope with his critical illness.

She said the argument over the graves was unfortunate but would not split the family as "blood is thicker than water".
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