Nelson Mandela spent his 95th birthday in a hospital in Pretoria, but across South Africa and around the world, his birthday and his achievements were celebrated.
For those of us who went to Robben Island, the sight of Nelson Mandela and in this instance accompanied by his comrades Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, passing by our section of the prison, was always an occasion that brought our section to a halt, we all rushed to the fence to sing and to shout 'power, power, power' .... It was always such a moment.
Schoolchildren across the country set the scene by singing "happy birthday" to the icon, while other well-wishers also praised the man regarded as the father of the non-racial 'Rainbow Nation'. Current President Jacob Zuma thanked South Africans for responding to a call to give Mandela the biggest birthday celebrations ever.
Mandela has been in intensive care in hospital for a recurring lung infection since June 8. He has been critically ill, but his family says he has been showing steady signs of improvement.
Mandela was famously jailed for 27 years under white minority rule, after which he led a difficult transition from apartheid to democracy, becoming South Africa's first black president in 1994.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) said the world was paying homage to Mandela on his birthday, celebrating a life, "dedicated to the liberation of South Africans and people all over the world ... and inextricably linked to the struggle of the people of South Africa for freedom, liberty and dignity".
But has Nelson Mandela's legacy been assured? Has the country lived up to his vision? And what lessons can South Africans learn from this great leader?
To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hanna, is joined by guests: Murphy Morobe, one of the student leaders of the Soweto uprising in 1976, who also spent time in prison and subsequently in government with Nelson Mandela; Saths Cooper, a leading psychologist and one of the founders of the Black Consciousness movement, who also shared a cell block with Mandela; and Louise Gubb, a photographer who recorded the momentous years leading to the end of apartheid, Mandela's release and the new democratic order that followed.
"Mandela was an imposing figure. He was somebody who carried a certain aura about him and that aura was bound to infect you … Our first encounter was at the end of 1976, when we got to Robben Island prison, and from there over the years, until just a week before he was moved to Pollsmoor Prison in April 1982, we spent time in the same cell block, and he was a very considerate person … but also had very firm views about issues, views which we shared and which we argued over, and discussed, and in all of this he displayed a certain graciousness which has carried him through, becoming the first iconic president of our country."
- Saths Cooper, member of the Black Consciousness movement who also shared a cell block with Mandela