South Africa serenades Nelson Mandela on his 94th birthday


South African schoolchildren hold signs as they prepare to sing happy birthday to former South African President Nelson Mandela, on his 94th birthday, at Batsogile Primary School in Soweto, on July 18, 2012. The nation's 12 million schoolchildren began their day with a special birthday song, ringing with the line: "We love you father". For the fourth year, at the request of his charitable foundation, July 18 is observed as Mandela Day, recognised by the United Nations as a global call to volunteer for good causes for 67 minutes -- representing each year of Mandela's life in active politics.



South Africa's anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela celebrated his 94th birthday today at his country home in Qunu, the Eastern Cape village where he spent his boyhood.

Mandela was serenaded by some 12 million South African schoolchildren around the country, who sung a specially composed song as part of official Mandela Day celebrations. 

Mandela, who is in frail health and hasn't made a public appearance since the 2010 soccer World Cup, met with former US President Bill Clinton on Tuesday. Clinton had opened a new library for the No-Moscow Primary School in Qunu ahead of his meeting with Mandela.

A private lunch with Mandela's close family and friends was scheduled for today, but the guest list wasn't made public.

GlobalPost Special Report: Mandela's village: South Africa's road from Qunu

Mandela, who in South Africa is affectionately known by his Xhosa clan name, "Madiba," spend 27 years in prison under apartheid rule before becoming the country's first black, democratically elected president in 1994.

His birthday is officially called Mandela Day in South Africa, and many people volunteer 67 minutes of community service in honor of the 67 years Mandela spent serving the public.

"Happy birthday, Madiba. The whole nation loves you dearly," President Jacob Zuma, who is traveling to China for meetings, said in a video message, the South African Press Association reported.

US President Barack Obama said in a tribute that Mandela "has changed the arc of history, transforming his country, the continent and the world."

"Mandela’s extraordinary life and steadfast commitment to the principles of democracy and reconciliation continues to be a beacon for people of all backgrounds who strive for dignity, justice, and freedom," Obama said.

The ruling African National Congress, Mandela's party, said in a statement that "the acknowledgment of the legendary contribution of Madiba is testimony of the impact Madiba had and continues to have on the unfolding struggle to unite and better the lives of our people."

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