Madiba 90

'Leave Mandela in peace'

2008-06-30 08:37

Special Report

Mandela: SA needs good leaders

Now as much as ever, South Africa needs disciplined leaders, Nelson Mandela has said at birthday celebration in Pretoria.

London - Nelson Mandela should not be lessened to a teddy bear to whom celebrities could cling in the hope that integrity was contagious, a British paper wrote following his 90th birthday celebration on Friday night.

An opinion piece in The Mail on Sunday said: "He has dignity. Must he endure all this ego and pretend politics? Can't he retire without ever having to meet a Pussycat Doll?"

Hundreds of South Africans in London attended the concert in Hyde Park. Some were wearing Springbok jerseys and others were waving the South African flag proudly.

Mandela told the crowd that it was time for the younger generation to take over from him as freedom fighter.

"It's time for new hands to lift the load. It's in your hands now."

Mandela's message was reiterated in the British media on Sunday. They appealed that he be left "in peace by all who are famous and who incessantly want to be photographed with him" so that he can enjoy his retirement in peace.

Mandela appeared fragile when he delivered a short message between the performances of Johnny Clegg and Kurt Darren.

With a white walking stick in his left hand and his wife Graça Machel supporting him by his right arm, he walked with difficulty on to the stage.

Questioned about Zimbabwe

At times, her voice could be heard over the microphone as she encouraged him to wave at the crowd.

In the past two weeks, the same media has brought up sensitive questions almost daily about why Mandela had not spoken out against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Some even criticised him.

After Friday night's concert, there was no mention of this, however.

The News of the World wrote that Mandela was probably relieved that the celebration was behind him and hoped for a "more peaceful" 100th birthday.

Mandela sat next to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the concert. Other celebrities who attended were actor Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey and former president Bill Clinton.

Other performers at the concert were Annie Lennox, Queen and the Soweto Gospel Choir.

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