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Anti-Apartheid Icon Turns 90; Says Wealthy Must Help Poor

July 19, 2008

Nelson Mandela sat beaming in a yellow armchair, his legs propped up on a large stool and covered with a pale yellow blanket. Ten grandchildren crowded around to serenade him with “Happy Birthday” and then smothered him with hugs and kisses.

The anti-apartheid icon celebrated his 90th birthday Friday with his family at his home in rural southeastern South Africa, and the whole village turned out.

Elders in traditional dress came to pay their respects, sheep were trucked into the property and a troupe of bare-breasted young women sang and danced in preparation for Mandela’s lunch with 500 dignitaries to day.

Mandela told a small group of reporters he was fortunate to have reached 90, crediting his “behavior” for his longevity.

But the man who has become a symbol of peace remains troubled by the demoralizing poverty still faced by so many of his countrymen .

His message was simple – the wealthy must do more.

“There are many people in South Africa who are rich and who can share those riches with those not so fortunate, who have not been able to conquer poverty,” Mandela said during the 10-minute interview, his first such exchange with journalists in years.

Mandela was imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against apartheid. He was released in 1990 to lead negotiations that ended decades of racist white rule, then was elected president in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

history

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against apartheid. He was released in 1990 to lead negotiations that ended decades of racist white rule, then was elected president in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.




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