Madiba 'healthy and vigorous'

2009-07-18 15:52

Johannesburg - Former South African president Nelson Mandela is healthy and even more vigorous at 91-years-old, Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Achmat Dangor said from New York on Saturday.

"He is so vigorous for his age. The momentum we are trying to create here we hope will continue.

"This is part of the way we will make sure that this annual event becomes more significant," Dangor said on SABC television.

Dangor is in New York for the inaugural Mandela Day concert, which is designed as a call for people to honour Mandela's inspiration, not as a public holiday, but by dedicating 67 minutes of their time to goodwill.

The star-studded event will include Stevie Wonder, Loyiso, Wyclef Jean, Aretha Franklin, Will.I.Am, Jesse McCartney, Cyndi Lauper, Zucchero, Josh Groban, Baaba Maal, Angelique Kidjo and the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Actors and actresses Morgan Freeman, Queen Latifah and Sharon Stone will also be among the invited guests.

Dangor said all the funds raised would be used to contribute towards the upliftment of communities, an ideal Mandela strived for.

Mandela 'a God-send'

In Johannesburg early on Saturday morning, former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda and Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane gave their 67 minutes to do good.

"Mandela is a God-send. He is God's messenger. He truly loved his neighbour as he loved himself.

"A truly remarkable man he is," Kaunda said of Mandela.

In an interview with the SABC, Mandela's long-time friend Mac Maharaj said that prison taught Mandela to be strong.

"He knew that prison was intended to destroy us. But Mandela made sure that his dignity was never taken from him.

"He swore that he will never co-operate with those warders," Maharaj said.

Another friend, Tokyo Sexwale joked that even at 91 when Madiba struggles to walk, he refuses to use a wheelchair.

"To Madiba the long walk [to freedom] continues," he said.

At the same time, in Mandela's rural village Qunu near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, celebrations continued.

Buses continued to arrive with traditional dancers from around the country, to show off their performances.

Celebrations were expected to continue until midnight.