Former president Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday celebrations had received unparalleled commemoration in South Africa and the world, President Jacob Zuma said.
He addressed reporters at the Sefakgo Makgatho presidential guesthouse in Pretoria yesterday at the conclusion of the sixth South Africa-European Union Summit.
“We thank the international community for the ongoing support and the international display of love for Madiba whom we are so proud to share with the world,” said Zuma.
“This year has seen the biggest Madiba birthday celebration ever. We regard this exciting development as a fitting tribute to the triumph of the South African people against institutionalised racism.”
He said Madiba’s health continued to improve steadily and that progress was “very encouraging”.
European Council president Herman van Rompuy, a former Belgian prime minister, said he felt privileged to be in South Africa at the time of Madiba’s birthday celebrations.
“We are continually inspired by former president Mandela’s vision. It is a pleasure to be here on the 95th birthday of Mr Mandela who was instrumental in establishing South Africa’s friendship with the world.”
“We now have the task to take this (co-operation) into the future,” he said.
EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said South African communities had taken over the long walk to freedom started by Madiba.
“The long walk starts with small steps. Nelson Mandela gave the first steps in South Africa’s long road to freedom and democracy. The walk has been continued by an entire nation,” he said.
“South Africa is now united under one flag, it is a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the rest of the world.”
Earlier, Zuma visited Madiba at the Medic-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria. A military brass band played Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika three times and throngs of well wishers enthusiastically sang along.
Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement earlier that Mandela’s health was steadily improving.
Yesterday marked Mandela’s 95th birthday and his 41st day in the Pretoria hospital, where he was being treated for a recurring lung infection.
Delegates at the SA-EU summit sang Happy birthday Madiba at the beginning of the conference. A large cake was in the room.
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