Jul 19, 2013

    Mandela in better health as he marks 95th birthday

    MR NELSON Mandela spent his 95th birthday in hospital yesterday, but his health was "steadily improving", the South African presidency said, as people around the world honoured his legacy with charitable acts.

    Amid a wave of good deeds planned to mark Nelson Mandela Day, South Africans awoke to word that their national hero was getting better, six fraught weeks after he was warded with a recurring lung infection.

    "Madiba remains in hospital in Pretoria, but his doctors have confirmed that his health is steadily improving," the presidency said in a statement, using Mr Mandela's clan name.

    Ms Ndileka Mandela said her grandfather is now more responsive. "He's using his eyes, nodding," she said.

    The news prompted joyful prayers of thanks outside the hospital, which has been the focal point of a national vigil. Nearby, schoolchildren read poems and left cards as nurses sang happy birthday to the former political prisoner, who went on to become South Africa's first black president.

    Across the country, biker gangs cleaned streets, volunteers painted schools and politicians spent 67 minutes on worthy projects - all to mark Mr Mandela's 67 years of public service.

    Mr Mandela's family plans to gather at the hospital for lunch, which would include his favourite food, such as oxtail, prawns, dumplings and vegetables.

    The United Nations declared the Nobel Peace laureate's birthday Mandela Day in 2010.