President Jacob Zuma joined others around the world on Wednesday in wishing the country's first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela a happy 94th birthday.
"Happy birthday Madiba. The whole nation loves you dearly," Zuma said in a video message sent as he travelled on business to China.
"Sikufisela okuhle kodwa ngosuku lwakho lokuzalwa Tata. Ukhule njalo. Sithi unwele olude Madiba. (We wish you the best on your birthday Tata. May you see many more)," he said in the message to Mandela , who was spending the day at home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
Zuma urged people to do good deeds as called upon by Mandela to make South Africa and the world a better place for all.
Government spokesman Jimmy Manyi said: "Madiba is special to South Africa in many ways, having dedicated his entire adult life to the relentless fight for freedom, democracy, peace and stability in our country.
"As the first president of a democratic South Africa, Nelson Mandela immediately led the nation on a path of unity, transformation, forgiveness and reconciliation."
The government called on all South Africans to become part of the process of "social cohesion", a movement started in Kliptown, Soweto recently.
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said the best honour of all would be "to work towards his vision of a better life for all South Africans, to build on his dream, and to vigilantly and consistently protect the Constitution, which he called a ‘sacred covenant'.
"We wish you a happy birthday Madiba," said Zille.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said Mandela's personal attempts at reconciliation were his biggest contribution.
The ANC only did this when it suited them, he said.
"May the celebration of Mr. Mandela's birthday bring about that we once again look at his views on harmony and co-operation in this country, and not only talk about it but also do something concrete about it."
The Pan Africanist Youth Congress said no amount of words could ever be enough to thank Mandela for his contribution in preaching and practising humanity, forgiveness, peace and equality.
"You remain a great inspiration!" said Payco.
"Celebrity" messages include good wishes from US president Barack Obama and golfer Tiger Woods.
Mandela received a visit from former US president Bill Clinton on Tuesday and was pictured smiling with Clinton in a sunny room, seated in a wingback chair with a blanket on his knee and a cardigan.
On Facebook, many added a favourite Mandela quote to their status update or posted a picture of how they were marking the day. "67 minutes of knitting" read one.
Many school children were allowed to skip wearing their school uniforms and dress up in "South African" clothes to take part in a nationwide campaign to sing happy birthday to Madiba at 8am.
Promoted by lobby group LeadSA, people were encouraged to sing happy birthday to him at this time wherever they were.
At the same time, many charities, NGOs, impoverished schools and orphanages were awash with offers of help from corporates and the public, in the spirit of the call to volunteer 67 minutes' community service in honour of Madiba.
The ANC Youth League said it would spend its 67 minutes at the SA Vroue Vederasie's children's shelter in Khutsong, Carletonville.
The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund promised extra money to some organisations over and above their usual grants.
The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA asked the government to use the 67 minutes to reconsider the closure of refugee reception offices.
"We ask them not to close refugee reception offices!" Cormsa said.