Pretoria: Millions of South African schoolchildren greeted former president Nelson Mandela Monday by singing "Happy Birthday" as the nation marked his 93rd birth anniversary.
Approximately 12 million students participated in this gesture of affection to one of the most iconic leaders of our time, state-run Bua News reported.
From "Happy birthday dear Tata, we love you Tata," to "Nelson Mandela there is no one like you", the little children sang on a wintry morning.
President Jacob Zuma, in his birthday message, said Mandela laid a solid foundation for this country and it was now up to South Africans to continue his legacy.
"From the moment Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela strode out of prison on the 11th of February 1990, we knew that South Africa would be a different place.
"He showed us that despite the divisive racial oppression and hardships that this nation had gone through, it is not only possible but necessary to embrace one another and to reconcile the South African people," said Zuma.
"We have achieved a lot, but we must still work further to eradicate poverty and improve especially the lives of children, because Madiba loves them so much."
Madiba is Mandela's clan name.
Released in 1990 after spending 27 years in prison for anti-apartheid activities, Mandela became South Africa's first democratically elected president (1994-1999).
First Published: Monday, July 18, 2011, 13:11