Nelson Mandela, 90 years

We, the people of South Africa, feel fulfilled that humanity has taken us back into its bosom, that we, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil.

– from Nelson Mandela's Inauguration as President of South Africa, Pretoria, 10 May 1994.

Nelson Mandela, photo from the ANC archives, where you can also find some selected speeches, statements and writings, such as the speech on release from prison.

Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and the first South African president to be elected in fully representative democratic elections, celebrates his 90th birthday today and the tributes have crossed the borders of his home, Qunu, a small rural village in Eastern Cape, South Africa. The world is singing happy birthday in one voice and sending him a card. We concentrated on the happy returns posts from African based bloggers, who reflect here on the changes Madiba brought to their lives and countries, and dream about the future.

Rethabile Masilo, a blogger originally from Lesotho, remembers the moment when she realised the importance of Mandela's fight. Her account of a great family experience reaching South Africa as a refugee is worth a visit at the Black Looks blog:

I had a light bulb above my head, just like in cartoons, and the hair on my arms stood on end. The name Nelson Mandela dropped of it’s own accord into my head, and I truly, really understood why he had sacrificed his life against this… thing. For that particular zombie instant, hair on end, a stupid smile on my face, I knew why. I want to wish him a happy birthday today, and tell him that we know.

From South Africa, Sandi Schultz from My Whorl remembers clearly a day in early February 1990 when she heard Mandela, her ultimate hero, was freed, after 27 years in prison for fighting for a democratic and free society:

10 february 1990 – we’re in the airport lounge in brussels. i see someone i know and she shouts out, “mandela’s free tomorrow!” wow, we are floored by the news! at long last – and we’re going to be home when it happens.

we land sometime in the early hours and head straight for soweto to watch madiba’s release on tv with friends of john’s. it is momentous! the man walks out, taller, more charismatic than anyone could have imagined. larger than life. a survivor of the seemingly impossible.

Louder than Swahili, a blog by a Danish expatriate in Tanzania, says that there is a lot to learn from Mandela, specially when it comes to our ability to forgive. She believes he is not just a normal president:

Mandela has gotten a position very few politicians could ever hope for. It is very much due to Mandela that the country has been able to change and create a positive image of what now is labelled the rainbow nation. But keeping this brand alive is also very much dependent on how his predecessors manage to continue running the country.

Photo from the ANC archives, a portrait from 1994 election poster. Read here his speech announcing the victory.

On a post called ‘Bring Back Nelson Mandela’, Africa is a Country makes some interesting observations about South Africa in 2008:

It’s of course a very interesting time to celebrate Mandela’s 90th birthday. It’s been 18 years since has released from prison and 14 years since he was first elected as President. And yes, in some ways South Africa today is unrecognizable from the country Mandela encountered in 1990. But some of the old inequalities persist. South Africa — a country that revels in its “special” status — is also becoming an ordinary country.

Memoires of Africa also reflects on Mandela's country difficult situation nowadays, and hopes that the hero's legacy will not be forgotten:

It’s a day for many to reflect on his legacy. At a time when South Africa is going through political upheavals many pray for his wisdom to be transferred to the current and potential future leadership of the country. Will his legacy be carried out to ensure that the stability and the future of this country reflect what he fought for? But let’s not get into politics for today… Ube neminye iminyaka Tata…

From Mozambique, Seguindo os Sonhos [Following Dreams, pt], a musical group of four talented children, pays a special homage to Mandela with a song recorded specially for his 90th Birthday. They will sing it at his birthday party in Maputo, on August 10th. You can read the lyrics here. Today's post is a happy birthday one:

Nelson Mandela, nosso ídolo ! Hoje a tarde vai receber em África do Sul um pequeno presente nosso: um DVD com a nossa música e o nosso video para seu nonagésimo aniversário. Você é um homem de um coração tão humanístico como há muito poucos neste mundo de hoje, cheio de egoístas e de líderes políticos cuja maioria persegue agendas individuais e não de índole nacional que possam beneficiar os seus compatriotas de que se proclamam seus representantes e defensores.

Nelson Mandela, our idol! This afternoon you will receive in South Africa a small gift from us: a DVD with our music and our video for your ninetieth birthday. You are a man of a humanist heart as there are very few in today's world, full of selfish people and political leaders who in the majority pursue individual agendas rather than domestic ones that could benefit their compatriots, and they proclaim themselves people's representatives and defenders.

Jennifer Reynard tried not to cry at her desk (and she failed) as she went through her first memories of Nelson Mandela leaving jail, then the election day, watching the inauguration on TV and his 90th birthday:

Natasha, Tanja and I are at Natasha’s aunt and uncle’s house. “Did you send an sms for Mandela’s birthday?” Tush asks me. “Yes- but I kept it very simple. Just ‘Happy Birthday Madiba. God bless and have many more. Love Jenny”.
” Not me,” Natasha says “I got quite emotional, saying ‘Thank you for sending our country on its way to democracy…”
Today- grey skies. I slept past my alarm clock. I got to work late. My eyes are teary. I wish I had baked a cake. I wish I could share with someone how much today means. I listen to Asimbonanga, Impi, Scatterlings of Africa and others on Youtube. I watch the video of Madiba on stage in Frankfurt. I want to cry for our country, and our people, for being so far away but for always having Africa in my heart.
Mandela is an icon, but the key thing about him is it feels like each one of us carries a piece of him- a quote, a special memory, the image ofMadiba shirts hanging in OR Thambo – in our hearts. Not only does he remind the world that we count, that we mean something, but in some small way, his birthday has the power to bring me home.
Happy birthday Madiba. God bless you.

Written with the collaboration of Rebecca Wanjiku


  • […] ver as versões em malagaxe e em espanhol. Thanks Gabriela e jentilisa! O original em inglês está aqui. A foto é dos arquivos da ANC, que guarda vários documentos importantes relacionados a Mandela. […]

  • Just a little thank to Global Voices for highlighting the birday of Africa’s galant son, Nelson Madiba Mandela. It is incredible that Mandela’s stature continues to positively influence the majority of people on this planet. I hope Mandela’s leagcy continues to inspire future leaders all over the world.

  • […] bloggers are regular contributors to the site with debates often started with user comments. Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebrations, environmental issues, and the International Criminal Court’s charges against Sudanese President […]

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