QUNU – Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea visited Nelson Mandela in his home village in South Africa yesterday, the eve of the anti-apartheid icon’s 94th birthday.
Mandela, increasingly frail, no longer appears in public. Clinton visited his homestead in Qunu, the southeastern village of his birth, and spent more than 90 minutes there. He declined to speak with reporters afterward.
Photographs tweeted by a member of Mandela’s family showed him comfortably seated in an armchair with a blanket over his knees and flanked by the Clintons and his wife, Graca Machel.
Earlier, Clinton toured the village and visited a museum display dedicated to Mandela’s life as a towering figure in his nation’s history that included a display of children’s art honoring him. The Clintons and Graca Machel each planted an avocado tree, an African symbol of growth and sustenance.
Today, South Africa and supporters around the world celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day. Millions dedicate 67 minutes of the day to community work and projects for the needy to mark Mandela’s 67 years in active politics.
Volunteers are building 67 homes for people in shanties and schoolchildren across South Africa will celebrate him by singing “Happy Birthday.” A tattoo parlor is looking to make its permanent mark -- by tattooing 67 people with an image of Mandela.
In Pretoria, the tattoo parlor will donate the proceeds from its clients to charity.
On Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial capital, local artist James Delaney has created an artwork mosaic of Mandela using coffee cups. Other activities will include book collections, sanitary pad distribution to impoverished women and community cleanups of schools, hospitals and clinics and other public facilities.
Hairdressers in Johannesburg have even volunteered to do the hair of underprivileged children as a special Mandela birthday treat on Wednesday.
Labor leaders will join workers in community projects and the national metalworkers’ union has already erected giant electronic billboards that will beam birthday messages across all major cities and towns.
The Confederation of South African Trade Unions, a longtime ally of the governing African National Congress, said its members will wield pots of paint to spruce up dilapidated health and education buildings and create vegetable gardens on unused plots of land where possible.
A movie company involved in an official biopic of Mandela is opening its stages and sets to illustrate scenes and surroundings in Mandela’s life.
South African President Jacob Zuma yesterday recalled Feb 11, 1990, when Mandela walked free from 27 years in apartheid-era jails for his political activism.
“That was the day South Africa changed,” he said.
Mandela became the first black president after the first democratic, all-race elections in 1994.
“From the 1940s until the dawn of freedom, he inspired millions of our people to fight relentlessly to bring about freedom, democracy, peace and stability,” Zuma said in a birthday tribute yesterday.