Madiba 90

'Please put me on TV'

2008-08-05 21:12

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.

Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela took time on Tuesday to view an exhibition of some the thousands of hand-drawn 90th birthday cards he received from children.

He expressed his "joy" at a private celebration with staff of the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg.

Mandela smiled and laughed as he inspected the cards and was read messages in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa from children all over South Africa.

His wife Graca Machel and personal assistant Zelda La Grange accompanied him.

One child said both he and his mother loved Mandela "very much".

A boy congratulated him for turning 90 and added that if he was lucky he would be able to get "a letter from the Queen" when he turned 100.

"Which Queen?" Mandela quipped.

'Put me on TV'

The card that drew the most laughter from Mandela was one where the child added to the birthday message a plea: "please put me on TV" followed by a cellphone number.

Another child wrote: "Thank you for making South Africa nice for us."

Mandela has received at least 50 000 birthday cards, telephone and e-mail messages from around the world for his 90th birthday.

The latest batch of cards arrived in boxes this week at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. They came from South African schoolchildren.

A group of about 45 staff of the Nelson Mandela Foundation then sang, clapped and cheered for Mandela and gave him several birthday gifts.

These included a cream-coloured king-sized blanket which they wrapped around him and Machel.

"I am very happy indeed that I have spent my 90th year with you," Mandela told the staff.

"Nothing is more important than to be loved by your colleagues and you have given me joy and strength which I never imagined I would have. Kealeboga (thank you)."

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