Diverse activities to mark Mandela`s 94th birthday

There is no shortage of innovation as South Africans try to outdo each other for celebrating the former President`s 94th birthday on Wednesday.

Updated: Jul 17, 2012, 16:40 PM IST

Johannesburg: Some South Africans will attempt to create a world record of the most people singing a special rendition of Happy Birthday at the same time, while others will spend 67 minutes in community service in honour of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

There is no shortage of innovation as South Africans try to outdo each other in the preparations for celebrating the former President`s 94th birthday on Wednesday.

For the past week already, there has been frenzied activity as people rallied to the call to spend 67 minutes of their time doing something for the community in honour of the anti-apartheid icon whose birthday has been designated as Mandela Day.

Mandela spent 67 years fighting for social justice and a free, democratic South Africa.

At Constitution Hill here, which once was the Old Fort Prison where both Mahatma Gandhi and later Mandela were held as political prisoners, a leading coffee manufacturer teamed up with artist James Delaney to build a giant portrait of Mandela using 5,000 cups of coffee in different strengths.

A major bank is sponsoring 94 calculators each to dozens of schools, calling on others to do something similar to promote science and technology in the schools.

At the University of the Free State, hundreds of learners from the region will celebrate the day with a special R5 coin laying ceremony where Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu will make a special appearance and deliver a short message.

Scores of schools, orphanages and old age homes are being renovated by individuals undertaking painting, fence-building and even furniture repair, with corporates sponsoring many items.

Municipalities are undertaking tree-planting ceremonies; bikers are embarking on fund-raising rides and musicians will give special free performances across the country.

There is a call for people worldwide to sing a special song for Mandela at 8 am (local time) tomorrow morning and millions of South African schoolchildren and office workers will follow this.

But while the world celebrates the birthday of the icon, Mandela himself will not be attending any of the special events in his honour due to his frail health.

He has retired to his ancestral birthplace, the village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape Province.

There was also a tinge of sadness for the Mandela family when they buried Morris Mandela on Sunday in Qunu. Morris was Nelson`s cousin, but the two grew up as brothers.

When Nelson was sent to prison, Morris played an important role in raising his then still young children left with his wife Winnie.