Poliswa Plaatjie and Nomahlubi Jordaan
AS the world celebrates Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday today, news came of a dramatic improvement in the former president’s condition.
His daughter, Zindzi, said Mandela had made “dramatic progress” and may be going home “anytime soon”.
“I visited him yesterday and he was watching television with headphones,” Zindzi, one of Mandela’s daughters by his second wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, said in an interview with Britain’s Sky TV.
“He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand … he responds with his eyes and his hands.”
Mandela was gaining “energy and strength”, she said.
Millions around the globe will pay tribute to Mandela, who has been in Pretoria’s Mediclinic Heart Hospital for almost six weeks with a recurrent lung infection.
One of these is “young- Madiba” lookalike Ayanda Mbatyothi, who has flown to Pretoria to wish the former president well and hand over a present to his family. Mbatyothi, of East London’s Duncan Village, said flying to Pretoria was his way of showing love and appreciation to the world icon.
“I am doing this on behalf of the whole province,” he said.
Mbatyothi, who started impersonating Mandela in 1994 during the ANC’s election campaign, said he would be standing outside the hospital holding up his banner wishing the former statesman well.
“There is also a big T-shirt we made for Madiba and I’ve already spoken with Ndaba [Mandela’s grandson] about it. He will come to me and collect Madiba’s present.”
Mandela’s grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela, said today was the most important day for the family.
He said: “This year we celebrate my grandfather’s 95th birthday, cognisant of the fact that the entire world is focusing on him and his well-being.
“This fact alone makes this the most important birthday for the broader Mandela family and indeed the whole world.
“The fact that my grandfather is with us today, when doomsday people had predicted his demise, makes me proud of the fighting spirit he has demonstrated over the many years of his life.”
He said they shared in the wishes of the entire world.
“Most importantly, his birthday reminds us of his wish that all of us should give our time and our efforts in making the lives of the less privileged better.”
Granddaughter Zoleka Mandela said a family lunch would be held “as we do each year, wherever he is”. Members of the family are expected to make a contribution to the SOS Children’s Village in Mamelodi East, Pretoria, ahead of the get-together at the hospital.
“Calling it special is putting it very mildly,” Zoleka said.
A bit more than an hour is all it will take today to participate in a global campaign to help others on Mandela Day.
People around the world are asked to spend 67 minutes trying to make the world a better place in whatever way they can.
The 67 minutes represents the 67 years Mandela dedicated to serving his community, his country and the world.
And today anything goes – from painting a classroom, donating clothes and volunteering at a clinic to even just making a new friend.
In Port Elizabeth, Mandy Spies of the SOS Children’s Village in Schauderville, which takes care of more than 600 children, said they would release balloons, cut a cake and sing Happy Birthday to Mandela.
“We have groups that are coming to do renovations and spend time with the children and help with gardening,” she said, adding that they would appreciate any other help.
Outpatients at the Livingstone and Provincial hospitals are in for a treat, courtesy of the SA Maritime Authority.
The organisation’s southern region spokeswoman, Saloshini Naidoo, said they would hand out 700 sandwiches today – and others were welcome to join them.
“We realised that so many people go to the hospital early in the morning and spend the whole day there without food. This is our way of giving back to the community.”
The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is also doing its bit and has invited the public to help paint and do minor repairs at specific houses in France Valley in the northern areas. It also needs help handing over food parcels and trimming the shrubs on the corner of Mpuku and Slammert streets.
The Family Restoration Services team is inviting the public to its Cluster Foster Home Scheme in Motherwell to spend time with the children in its care, and would appreciate donations of food, cooldrink or snacks for them.
For those who have not yet made plans but would like to do something, the website www.mandeladay.com provides more ideas on simple things that people can do to make a difference. – Additional reporting by Andile Ndlovu and Sapa-AP