Former president Nelson Mandela celebrates 88th birthday |

Former president Nelson Mandela celebrates 88th birthday

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – South Africans marked former President Nelson Mandela’s 88th birthday Tuesday with tributes and praise, and the man who led his country out of apartheid celebrated privately with his children and grandchildren at his Johannesburg home.Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, announced in 2004 that he was retiring and has made few public appearances since then.Staff members at his foundation sang happy birthday to Mandela on Monday and presented him with a cake. Leaning on a cane and supported by his wife, Graca Machel, Mandela then toured an exhibition of photographs about his life and legacy.Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against apartheid. He was released in 1990 to lead negotiations to end decades of racist white rule and was elected president in the country’s first free elections in 1994. He left office in 1999 but continued to play an active role in the fight against poverty, illiteracy and AIDS in Africa.President Thabo Mbeki sent birthday greetings on Monday, expressing the wish that Mandela live long enough “to see the full bloom of our nation as it continues to regenerate itself into a peaceful, prosperous and united people.”Mandela’s beloved African National Congress party sent a tribute saying that South Africans “continue to draw inspiration and courage” from his leadership.The Nelson Mandela Foundation held a celebration Tuesday at its Johannesburg headquarters. Mandela’s daughter Zindzi was there, telling well-wishers Mandela would celebrate at home.

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