News24

Mandela family asks for privacy

2010-07-18 10:19

Johannesburg - Neighbours in the plush suburb of Houghton are milling outside the high perimeter walls of Madiba's home, hoping to catch a glimpse of the iconic leader who celebrates his 92nd birthday on Sunday.

"I have been here since 08:00. Maybe I might be lucky and see him," said Jessy Martina holding a "Happy Birthday Madiba" sign.

Children with handmade birthday cards and flowers were standing with their parents outside the gate, amid tight security, waiting to hand over their birthday messages to family members.

"We expect more people to arrive during the day. Unfortunately no one would be allowed in, but we can't chase them away," said a police officer stationed outside the house.

"The family has asked for privacy," said the officer.

Local politicians united in wishing the anti-apartheid icon well on his birthday, with international leaders hailing his contribution to global politics and the fight for human rights.

Mandela has made few public appearances since he retired from public life in 2004.

Last week he arrived at the World Cup closing ceremony to wave at adoring football fans before the final match kick-off. He did not stay for the game.

He had campaigned for the country to host the event, but the death of his great-grandchild on the eve of the tournament's opening forced him to cancel his planned appearance.

President Jacob Zuma will address thousands of villagers at Mandela's birthplace Mvezo, one of the poorest areas in the country.