Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Mandela 'makes dramatic progress'

Nelson Mandela has made "dramatic" progress on the eve of his 95th birthday, his family said (AP)

Nelson Mandela has made "dramatic" progress, his daughter said as he celebrates his 95th birthday.

Zindzi Mandela said in an interview with Sky TV: "I visited him yesterday. He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand. He responds with his eyes and his hands." Mandela is watching television with headphones in his bed in a Pretoria hospital, she said, and is gaining "energy and strength", adding. "I should think he will be going home any time soon."

The latest description by Zindzi Mandela - a daughter by his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela - is a significant improvement from court documents from the family that said he was on life support and near death.

Former president Thabo Mbeki said at the weekend he expected Mandela to soon be discharged from the hospital to recuperate at home. He has been in hospital for more than five weeks for a recurring lung infection, sparking an outpouring of support in South Africa and internationally.

The anti-apartheid hero spent 27 years in prison before becoming South Africa's first black president in 1994.

The news of the improvement in Mandela's health will boost his supporters in South Africa and around the world who are preparing to celebrate his 95th birthday, a day declared by the United Nations as a way to recognise the Nobel Prize winner's contribution to reconciliation.

Interest in Nelson Mandela International Day has ignited as a result of the former South African president's stay in hospital in Pretoria, and people are finding ways to honour his ideals.

A Johannesburg-based foundation named after Mandela and numerous other groups have asked people to volunteer 67 minutes to charity to match what they say are the 67 years that Mandela served his community. Mandela led South Africa through a tense transition from apartheid to democracy and became president in the country's first all-race elections in 1994.

President Jacob Zuma will mark the birthday by overseeing the donation of houses to poor white families in the Pretoria area, in line with his cabinet's theme to commemorate Mandela's birthday this year by focusing on food security, shelter and literacy.

In Cape Town, labour activists are holding an event at St George's Cathedral in remembrance of Mandela's years of service and to encourage people to donate food to charity while leaving messages of support for the former leader's family. Hundreds of well-wishers have left prayers and messages of hope at his Johannesburg home and at the hospital where he is being treated.

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