When asked what Mandela had done for her, Annie Phohlela, 51, from the central Joubert Park, opened the bag she was carrying to reveal textbooks.

"I am studying now because of Mandela," she said.

"During apartheid we had dreams, but we thought we would die. I was working in a factory and we lived hand to mouth.

"He gave us jobs and people are creating jobs, especially women. He showed us that we can come together and make something big."

Phohlela said that she would open a children's play school after finishing her diploma in education this year.

She planned to celebrate in the city centre with her husband and children.

'Forgive, but not forget'

David Mahlangu, a 44-year-old security guard, said that he now had freedom of speech and movement, which was unavailable to him during apartheid.

"I see him as a hero and a saint. Not everyone could have suffered like that.

"He has compassion and led us to forgive but not forget, so that we can live in harmony."

Cindy Mofokeng, who runs a street food stall with her two daughters, said that before Mandela came out of prison on Robben Island in 1990 she did not know about welfare.

"Mandela is the only one who made us aware and gave benefits to us," Mofokeng, 47, said.

"Our grandmother didn't get a pension. Now they do and every year there is an increase.

"We have freedom and are equal in rights to all, thanks to Mandela."

The family planned to celebrate Mandela's birthday on their building's roof in the inner city neighbourhood of Hillbrow with other rest residents there.

However, they said that they would have liked larger celebrations to have been organised in the city after a concert hosting international pop stars was held in London.

'Not enough'

Anthony Dubazana, a 51-year-old taxi owner, said there should have been more celebrations.

Most South Africans planned to celebrate the occasion with friends and famliy [AFP]
"We shouldn't be working today," he said.

Nevertheless, Dubazana was happy to share the festivities with the rest of the world.

"It can be in London or here. It portrays a good picture of our country, that it is not just South Africans who are happy about the new South Africa but everyone," he said.

Moses Mpofu, 27, had been celebrating Mandela's birthday since the afternoon with a few friends.

He was later going to meet another 20 people to listen to music and dance in a local park.

And with good reason. For Moses said that without Mandela he would still be living in the shack he inhabited during apartheid, rather than the house he lives in now.

The celebrations were to go on into the evening, with some events in different parts of the city and local musicians and artists on show.

But the vast majority of people were to celebrate at home among friends and family – taking another lead from the man they call "father".