South Africa is gearing up to celebrate the 95th birthday of its anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela on Thursday, even as the revered statesman remains critically ill in a hospital.
South Africans are preparing to donate goods and volunteer their services for 67-minutes, all for a good cause as part of the Mandela Day initiative, which honours the legacy of the country’s first black president and marks his birthday.
The initiative recognises the 67 years Mr. Mandela spent working for South Africa. Many South Africans have said they were excited about the opportunity to plough back to their communities.
“We are sponsoring food and drinks and all sorts of things. I mean Mr. Mandela is a very important person and in my opinion it should be a worldwide thing not just a South African thing everybody can give a little bit of their time,” a South African said.
“Mr. Mandela worked every single day of his life. I think social responsibility has to happen every day,” said another citizen.
On Monday, South African President Jacob Zuma put out a statement reminding “all South Africans to begin planning for Madiba’s birthday”, using the former president’s clan name.
“We must all be able to do something good for humanity on this day, in tribute to our former president,” he said.
Mr. Mandela, regarded the founding father of South Africa’s multi-racial democracy, was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on June 8 for a recurring lung infection.
The 94-year-old icon of democracy has been hospitalised four times since last December.
Mr. Mandela had a long history of lung problems, dating back to the time when he was a political prisoner on Robben Island during apartheid. While in jail he contracted tuberculosis.
Mr. Mandela is revered for leading the fight against white minority rule in the African country and then preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.
Mr. Mandela served as the country’s first black president from 1994 to 1999. He left power after five years as president.
Mr. Mandela, respected across the globe as a symbol of resistance against injustice, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
He retired from public life in 2004 and has not been seen in public since the football World Cup final in 2010.