The Bar Pops Pink Champagne for Nelson Mandela

If we must mourn a young hero, let's celebrate an old one as well.
PRETORIA, South Africa — Zodwa Kgamphe baked a cake for needy children so that they, too, could celebrate the 95th birthday of the man they call the father of their nation: Nelson Mandela. But like most South Africans, Kgamphe was also giving thanks for a life shaped by the anti-apartheid icon.

“If it wasn’t for him, I would not be owning my own bakery,” said Kgamphe, 58, as her older sister nodded in agreement. “He taught us to work hard for ourselves. He gave us strength. He stayed 27 years in prison. If he could do that, I felt I could open my own business.”

On Thursday, South Africans of all races celebrated Mandela’s 95th birthday, amid reports that his health was “steadily improving” as he lay in a hospital bed battling a lung infection. At the urging of South African leaders and the United Nations, which recognizes his birthday as Nelson Mandela International Day, many South Africans paid tribute to him by volunteering for 67 minutes to mark Mandela’s 67 years of public service

They donated food to charities, worked in orphanages, picked up trash, made sandwiches for the poor and baked cakes. President Jacob Zuma oversaw donations of houses that were given to impoverished white farmers in Pretoria. A group of young artists created an exhibition of 95 posters compiled from submissions from around the world to commemorate Mandela.

And retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate like Mandela, as well as a famed leader of the anti-apartheid struggle, painted the walls of a school in a shantytown in Cape Town.

Outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, where Mandela was taken in early June, throngs gathered outside the green gates, singing, dancing or blowing vuvuzelas, the long plastic horns that were ubiquitous during the soccer World Cup held in South Africa in 2010.

Mercy Mokgoane, 39, noted that under the nation’s apartheid-era segregation laws, she wouldn’t have been allowed to stand in front of the hospital. “Only our mothers were allowed into this area, because they were the maids of the white people. The way we live now is because of Madiba,” she said, referring to Mandela by his Xhosa clan name.


  1. Its not over til the fat lady sings. Just when thought the end was over. I'm happy that Nelson continue to defy the odds. I hope he'll get to see 100 more years of his life.

  2. One of the greatest men in modern history. Nelson Mandela, I salute you, brotha.

  3. I got to see him speak in Boston just a few months after his release. I was pretty young, but definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life.


This blog is strictly moderated. Everyone is now able to comment again, however, all Anonymous posts will be immediately deleted. Comments on posts more than 30 days old are generally dismissed, so try to stay current with the conversations.