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Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Associated Press


GOOD DEEDS TO CELEBRATE MANDELA'S 94TH
by KIM CHAKANETSA
Associated Press

Former American president Bill Clinton, left, plants a tree to celebrate former South African president Nelson Mandela birthday in Qunu, South Africa, Tuesday, July 17, 2012. South African's will celebrate former president Nelson Mandela's birthday tomorrow. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - Annah Nankie Nhlapo has been waiting 22 years for a home. On a dusty narrow road on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the foundation of her new house is finally taking shape.

Over the next five days, to commemorate the U.N.-mandated Nelson Mandela International Day, housing charity Habitat for Humanity is working with volunteers to build 67 houses across South Africa, in honor of Mandela's 67 years of political service. Nhlapo is one of the lucky ones who will be handed keys on Friday.

For two decades, she and her five children have lived crowded into one of the flimsy shacks that sprawl across Orange Farm, a settlement named after its original purpose.

"I'm happy and I feel proud of myself because it's been a long time staying in a shack that is leaking water," said Nhlapo, a 47-year-old single mother.

That the house is being built to honor Mandela resonates with Nhlapo, who sees South Africa's first black president as a champion of nation building.

Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday Wednesday.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton got the celebrations off to an early start Tuesday. He and daughter Chelsea met for 1 Ĺ hours with Mandela in his birth village of Qunu in a remote, southeastern corner of the country. Photographs tweeted by one of Mandela's grandsons showed the Nobel Peace Prize winner comfortably seated in an armchair with a blanket over his knees and with the Clintons and his wife, Graca Machel, at his side.

Then Clinton, Chelsea and Machel each planted an avocado pear tree to mark the occasion. Clinton said he is fond of the trees, an African symbol of growth and sustenance.

Children will begin their school day Wednesday by singing Happy Birthday to Madiba, the clan name by which Mandela is fondly known. South Africans of all colors to whom Mandela is a hero came up with creative ways to do 67 minutes of community service.

Many volunteers will be collecting books, distributing sanitary pads and cleaning up neighborhoods. In Pretoria, a tattoo parlor is hoping to tattoo clients with 67 images of Mandela's face, with proceeds going to charity. On Constitution Hill Saturday, artist James Delaney used coffee cups to create a mosaic of Mandela.

In this photo taken Friday, July, 13, 2012, workers clean the area around a mural depicting former South African President Nelson Mandela during iconic moments in the the 60's 70's 80's and 90's in Cape Town, South Africa. Mandela will celebrate his 94th birthday Wednesday, July 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

Asked what would be the best gift for Mandela, Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said the greatest gift the nation could give would be "to emulate his magnanimity and grace."

"Mr. Mandela taught us to love ourselves, to love one another and to love our country," Tutu said.

Mandela's 50-year fight, including 27 years in jail, helped bring democracy and freedom to the once white-ruled South Africa. But the country remains beset by tensions over continued white minority domination of the economy, massive unemployment, poor education and health services and the millions who remain homeless or in shacks.

When Mandela's African National Congress won power in 1994, the housing shortage was a priority.

Eighteen years in, informal settlements without electricity and running water have ballooned and the lack of adequate housing for the poor is at crisis point, said Kate Tissington, a senior researcher at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa.

"You get the sense from government officials that there is a never-ending battle to eliminate the housing backlog," she said.

Some 3 million homes have been built for some of South Africa's 50 million people, according to Xolani Xundu, spokesman for the government Department of Human Settlements. But 2.2 million more homes are needed, he said.

Tissington said population growth and the influx of people into cities and towns have contributed to the crisis.

The high demand and low supply makes informal settlements, like Nhlapo's shack at Orange Farm, a viable option.

Government-subsidized housing, often built on cheaper vacant land on the outskirts of urban developments, is not always linked to bus routes or services such as clinics, making it even more difficult for people to survive.

Members from the South African correctional service repair a wall at a school where former South African President Nelson Mandela went as a child as they celebrate his birthday in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

Corruption is another factor undermining efforts, as sometimes people who do not necessarily qualify end up being allocated subsidized housing, Tissington said. This creates a lot of tension.

"A lot has been happening in political and policy circles over the years," Tissington said, "but implementation on the ground has not kicked in and people are getting increasingly impatient with living with compromised access to basic services."

Every day there are protests, sometimes violent, against the lack of housing and other basic services like electricity and potable water.

Ryan Horsfield, a volunteer who had taken two days off work to help build the homes at Orange Farm, believes citizens also have a role to play.

"I don't think it's up to us to sit back and say the government must do it or not. If something is not happening we should all get in and try make it happen," he said.

Which is exactly what Mandela had in mind when he retired from politics at age 90 and told the world that "It's in your hands to make the world a better place."

Children from a school where former South African President Nelson Mandela went as a child sing as they celebrate his birth day in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

RELATED STORY:

Millions of S. African children sing for Mandela

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - Nearly 12 million children across South Africa kicked off celebrations Wednesday for the 94th birthday of Nelson Mandela, the country's deeply loved anti-apartheid icon, with resounding choruses of Happy Birthday.

Mandela is expected to spend the day privately with his family at their homestead in his southeastern birth village of Qunu. Meanwhile, communities in South Africa and around the world were dedicating 67 minutes of the day to volunteer work and projects for the needy - one minute to mark each of Mandela's 67 years in public service.

Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison for his fight against racist apartheid rule, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

Tributes to Mandela poured in early Wednesday, with U.S. President Barack Obama saying Mandela "has changed the arc of history, transforming his country, the continent and the world."

Ahmed Kathrada, one of Mandela's oldest friends, said Madiba, as he is affectionately known by his Xhosa clan name, championed the dignity of all.

"You can be rich but if you don't have dignity you are a second-class citizen," Kathrada said in a public lecture marking the birthday celebrations.

Tokyo Sexwale, a longtime ally in the governing African Nation Congress, described Mandela as a global statesman who inspired the world.

At one Johannesburg elementary school Wednesday, children watched a film documenting Mandela's life and his years of service and sacrifice along with a photographic display of him meeting celebrities including Beyonce, Michael Jackson and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Nelson Mandela set an example to show us that reconciliation is possible," said 10-year-old Thakgalo Ditabe. She said she wanted Mandela to know how much he meant to her.

Ntando Ntuli, 12, said with pride: "He is my hero because he fought for us. He is an icon, the king of Africa."


Women interact before handing out books during birthday celebrations for former South African President Nelson Mandela in Mvezo, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

In 2009, the United Nations established Nelson Mandela International Day to honor the African leader on his birthday through acts of community service.

In many districts, South Africa came to a virtual standstill early Wednesday as strangers greeted each other in the streets and even infants at one pre-school waved at passersby and sang: "We love you, Tata," or "great father," a supreme term of endearment.

In the eastern port city of Durban Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of England's Manchester United football team that is widely followed in Africa, sang Happy Birthday over a cake iced with the image of the team's yellow and red badge.

Ferguson, who met Mandela on previous visits, said "his presence and personality exudes all around."

Manchester United plays the first game of its South African tour later Wednesday.

South African churchmen and politicians urged people across the country "to make every day a Mandela Day."

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton got the celebrations off to an early start Tuesday. He and daughter Chelsea met with Mandela in Qunu. Photographs tweeted by one of Mandela's grandsons showed the Nobel Peace Prize winner comfortably seated in an armchair with a blanket over his knees and with the Clintons and his wife, Graca Machel, at his side.

Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said the greatest gift the nation could give Mandela on Wednesday would be "to emulate his magnanimity and grace."

"Mr. Mandela taught us to love ourselves, to love one another and to love our country," Tutu said.

Mandela's activism helped bring democracy and freedom to the once white-ruled South Africa. But the country remains beset by tensions over continued white minority domination of the economy, massive unemployment, poor education and health services and the millions who remain homeless or in shacks

By: ANGUS SHAW
Associated Press


Written by KIM CHAKANETSA
Associated Press
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten , or redistributed.

Photos courtesy of AP Photo
Images created by Schalk van Zuydam
Last changed on: 7/18/2012

1st Story: Associated Press writers Angus Shaw in Johannesburg and Nqobile Ntshangase in Qunu, South Africa contributed to this report.

2nd Story: Associated Press writer Kim Chakanetsa contributed to this report from Johannesburg.

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