Zuma pays tribute to Mandela

2009-07-18 17:28

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to former statesman Nelson Mandela on his 91st birthday on Saturday.

"I just come from spending time with Madiba. We were eating cake.

"He was reminiscing about all the things he did," Zuma told a group of elders.

Zuma was speaking in Ivory Park where he spent the day with the elderly, highlighting government services to them. This in line with the 67 minutes initiative to honour the 67 years Mandela spent in his fight for peace, development and human rights.

"Volunteering has always been in Madiba's nature. We are united today by one objective, and that is to honour Madiba.

"It is important that we all celebrate regardless of our political affiliation and race," he said.

Zuma said there was an appreciation throughout the world of how Mandela taught reconciliation.

"He loved even those who persecuted him. Even when he was released after 27 years, he taught reconciliation and forgiveness.

"He taught that the only way to achieve personal freedom was to release hatred from your heart," Zuma said of Madiba.

Tribute to elderly

Zuma said Mandela was surrounded by his family and members of the ANC's national executive committee at his Houghton home in Johannesburg.

In paying tribute to South Africa's elderly, Zuma said it was important to celebrate with the old.

"They are the reservoirs of knowledge. It is sad that today there are many households that are headed by grandmothers.

"They have replaced parents who in some cases have died. And, the grants they receive end up looking after those grandchildren," he added.

Zuma also said Mandela had outlined the way that the world should live.

"We must continue to work together against racism, sexism and xenophobia.

"We must also improve on service delivery issues that we have prioritised over the past five years," Zuma said.