Mandela Lauded On 89th Birthday

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Celebrating Living Legend

Former South African president and anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela continues to achieve more in retirement; commanding the world stage and winning more plaudits for his lifetime commitment to peace, reconciliation and racial equality.

Even though he has stepped out of active politics, Mandela's charisma and international respect is felt well beyond Africa.

International leaders, celebrities and people from all walks of life trek down south to see Mandela in the twilight of his journey of hardship, struggle and commitment to justice and racial equality.

Former US president Bill Clinton was part of a group of dignitaries who attended the recent launch of a new think tank of world statesmen which will strive to resolve global conflicts and other pressing issues; he heaped glowing praise on Mandela for his role as a world peacemaker. "I think it is important that people in South Africa and all parts of the world—live by the Mandela legacy," Clinton declared.

"His living legacy must live on. It is the most important thing we can teach our children. In the grace and beauty of his old age, he does not need to say anything before we know it. That is the legacy all of us must keep alive," the man from Hope, said.

Clinton led Mandela by hand into the packed Nelson Mandela Foundation auditorium, and said South Africa’s first Black president was both a friend and source of inspiration for his own humanitarian work in Africa.

As Mandela retreats further from public life, there is always activity around his name and legacy. The continent marked Mandela’s 89th birthday on July 18 with tributes and congratulations from all over the world. A new poll released to coincide with Mandela’s birthday showed his popularity has grown even more in South Africa since he stepped down as president.

Referring to the "Elders," the global leaders who came to fete him and will join him in resolving international crises, Mandela said: "Speak freely and boldly on whatever actions need to be taken," to address some of the world's pressing problems that include conflicts, poverty and diseases.

"I know The Elders will support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict and inspire hope where there is despair," he said at the launch ceremony.

Present were; his wife Graca Machel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US president Jimmy Carter, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, former Irish president and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, former Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing, and renowned Bangladesh economist and micro-financing guru, Muhammad Yunus.

Mandela, Tutu, Annan, Carter and Yunus are all Nobel Peace laureates.

"I'm deeply honored to receive this tribute; but it must always be remembered that I was one of many who fought for freedom from tyranny and racism," Mandela said, when handed a gift from three-time African soccer player of the year Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon and Brazilian legend Pele.

"I have met a lot of great personalities in my life, but Nelson Mandela is an extraordinary person," Pele declared. "I'm really touched and honored to lead the Rest of the World team in his birthday match. I am a big admirer of what this man has achieved in his life."

Mandela, a living legend, still enjoys a measure of good health and is spending his retirement quietly devoting his time to his large family and wife Graca, who he married in 1998.


Tsiko is The Black Star News's Southern Africa correspondent, based in Harare

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