The health of former president Nelson Mandela, who turns 95 today, is “steadily improving”.
“Madiba remains in hospital in Pretoria, but his doctors have confirmed that his health is steadily improving,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement today.
Mandela was admitted into a Pretoria hospital on June 8 with a recurrent lung infection.
Until now, his condition has been described as critical but stable.
Zuma said: “On behalf of government and all the people of South Africa, we wish Madiba a joyous 95th birthday.
“We are proud to call this international icon our own as South Africans and wish him good health.”
In 2009, July 18 was declared as Mandela Day to honour the former statesman, with people encouraged to dedicate 67 minutes of their time to nation building and charity in recognition of his service towards securing democracy and restoring human dignity.
“We thank all our people for supporting Madiba throughout the hospitalisation with undying love and compassion,” said Zuma.
“We also thank all for responding to the call to give Madiba the biggest birthday celebration ever this year.”
Meanwhile, US president Barack Obama paid tribute to Madiba.
Obama, who visited South Africa last month but was unable to see Mandela because of his illness, was fulsome in his praise of the former statesman, referring to him by his clan name, Madiba.
“Our family was deeply moved by our visit to Madiba’s former cell on Robben Island during our recent trip to South Africa, and we will forever draw strength and inspiration from his extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness, and humility,” Obama said in a statement.
Global luminaries, pop stars and ordinary people around the world have joined South Africans in pledging support for Mandela on his birthday.
“I will also be giving my 67 minutes to make the world a better place, one small step at a time,” British business magnate Richard Branson vowed in a recorded message.
In Manila, capital of the Philippines, 50 abandoned street children will get a television studio tour and see performances by local artists.
On Saturday, the Australian city of Melbourne will hold a concert featuring local and African artists, while a music festival later this year in Norway will promote equality in schools.
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