JOHANNESBURG: Nelson Mandela’s health is “steadily improving,” South Africa’s presidency said on Thursday, as the anti-apartheid legend began spending his 95th birthday in hospital.
United States (US) President Barack Obama led a stream of birthday wishes for the ailing peace icon, who was admitted to hospital with a recurring lung infection on June 8, as people from around the world prepared to honor his legacy with charitable acts.
“Madiba remains in hospital in Pretoria, but his doctors have confirmed that his health is steadily improving,” the government said in a statement, using Mandela’s clan name.
President Jacob Zuma wished Mandela a “joyous” birthday.
“We are proud to call this international icon our own as South Africans and wish him good health,” he said in the statement.
Children in schools around the country were to kick off the celebrations by singing “Happy Birthday” to Mandela, on a day that also marked the 15th anniversary of his marriage to third wife Graca Machel.
Obama, who visited South Africa last month but was unable to see Mandela because of his illness, was fulsome in his praise of the former statesman, referring to him by his clan name, Madiba.
“Our family was deeply moved by our visit to Madiba’s former cell on Robben Island during our recent trip to South Africa, and we will forever draw strength and inspiration from his extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness, and humility,” Obama said in a statement.