Mandela marks 95th birthday in hospital

South Africa holds celebrations for former president said to be making "dramatic progress".

Last Modified: 18 Jul 2013 21:18
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Nelson Mandela has made "dramatic progress" and may be going home "anytime soon" said his daughter Zindzi, as South Africa prepared to celebrate his 95th birthday.

His doctors also have confirmed that his health is steadily improving, according to a statement of  the South African presidency. Mandela has been in a Pretoria hospital since June 8.

Mandela's daughter talks to Al Jazeera

"I visited him yesterday and he was watching television with headphones,'' said Zindzi Mandela in an interview with British media.

"He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand ... He responds with his eyes and his hands," she said.

Mandela, who turns 95 on Thursday, was gaining "energy and strength", said his daughter. "I should think he will be going home any time soon."

The latest description by Zindzi - who is one of Mandela's daughters by his second wife, Winnie Madikizela Mandela - is an improvement from court documents filed by the family earlier this month which said he was on life support and near death.

Birthday celebrations

The news of the improvement in Mandela's health will boost his supporters in South Africa and around the world who are preparing to celebrate his 95th birthday on Thursday, a day declared by the UN as a way to recognise the Nobel Prize winner's contribution to reconciliation.

Interest in Nelson Mandela International Day has ignited as a result of the former South African president's admission to hospital in Pretoria and people finding ways to honour his ideals.

A Johannesburg-based foundation named after Mandela and numerous other groups have asked people to volunteer 67 minutes to charity to match what they say are the 67 years that Mandela served his community. Mandela led South Africa through a tense transition from apartheid to democracy and became president in the country's first all-race elections in 1994.

Frank Chikane: One day we will lose him

President Jacob Zuma will mark the birthday by overseeing the donation of houses to poor white families in the Pretoria area, in line with his Cabinet's theme to commemorate Mandela's birthday this year by focusing on food security, shelter and literacy.

In Cape Town, labour activists are holding an event at St George's Cathedral on Thursday, in remembrance of Mandela's years of service and to encourage people to donate food to charity while leaving messages of support for the former leader's family. 

Ebrahim Fakir, of the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa, told Al Jazeera that many of these charitable acts downplayed the aspects of recognition, injustice, as well as radicalism, which are required to redistribute resources and create sustainable livelihoods for most of the South Africans.

He said the perception about Mandela had changed over the years towards a more reconciliatory Mandela without downplaying his revolutionary, and radical, aspects.

Mandela, who is in critical but stable condition, has been admitted to hospital since June 8, and hundreds of well-wishers have left prayers and messages of hope at his Johannesburg home and at the hospital where he is being treated.

Legal documents have said Mandela's breathing is machine-assisted.


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