In school assemblies across the country, pupils sang a specially-composed version which included the lines:
Happy Birthday dear Tata
Happy Birthday to you
We love you Tata
We love you Tata
We love you dear Tata
Happy birthday to you.
The love which children have for Nelson Mandela is obvious when they talk about him. In a recent video made by SOS in South Africa for the new ‘Our Africa’ project, two teenagers danced through the legs of a giant statue of Mr Mandela, singing his praises. ‘He’s my hero!’ says one of the girls – watch the video here.
The special birthday song today was organised by The Nelson Mandela Foundation along with the Department of Education and corporate sponsors. The organisers are hoping to set a new world record by involving 12.4 million people singing together. It’s still unclear if this target was reached, but in some ways, this hardly matters; the song was a way for the children to express their affection for Nelson Mandela, who is known to South Africans by his clan name of Tata Madiba.
The Foundation also used the event to promote community work, urging fellow South Africans to offer 67 minutes of their time to help others today, on what is known as ‘Mandela International Day’. This voluntary work will commemorate the 67 years Nelson Mandela has given through his political life. The Foundation head said “Let us give back and show our appreciation.” In response, companies, charities and celebrities are expected to do a variety of voluntary work today.
World leaders have been paying tribute to Nelson Mandela. Barack Obama spoke of Mr Mandela’s “wisdom, strength and grace” and of his family’s time with Mr Mandela as “the most moving part” of a recent trip. The United Nations’ Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said “the best way we can thank Nelson Mandela for his work is by taking action for others and inspiring change.” The British Prime Minister, David Cameron arrives in South Africa today. As well as confirming Britain’s aid commitment and promoting foreign trade, Mr Cameron also arrived with a message about ‘change’. In an article written for ‘South Africa Business Day’, Mr Cameron talks of “an African free trade area” which could boost the region’s Gross Domestic Product by 62 billion dollars each year. Mr Cameron says “the key to Africa’s progress is not just aid. It is time for some fresh thinking.”
Mr Mandela himself is expected to spend his birthday at home in the Eastern Cape village of Qunu. A photo of him smiling and surrounded by his family was released ahead of the day. Though he retired from public life in 2004, South Africans will be overjoyed to see Mr Mandela looking well and happy, because the nation truly loves this great man.