December 23, 2005

Mandela’s New Year wish at 87: to keep on serving

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - He spent 27 years in jail for his
struggle against apartheid and has campaigned tirelessly
against AIDS and poverty, but at 87, Nelson Mandela's New
Year's resolution is to serve his people better.

South Africa's first black president and a global icon for
freedom and democracy, Mandela has urged South Africans reaping
the rewards of a booming domestic economy to share their wealth
with those less fortunate this Christmas.

"The only resolution I can make is that I should be of
better service to the people," Mandela told Johannesburg-based
The Star newspaper in an interview, adding that his only
Christmas wish was "to make those less fortunate happy."

Mandela, who is looking increasingly frail, said South
Africans should follow his example over the festive season.

"The purpose of well-to-do people is, among others, to use
their wealth for the benefit of allowing those who are less
fortunate to enjoy Christmas and New Year. The numbers (of rich
people) are growing," he said.

South Africa has notched up steady economic growth as a
burgeoning black middle class fuels a consumer spending boom,
although the bulk of the country's black majority continues to
live in poverty.

Mandela, who has scaled back his personal appearances since
officially retiring from public life two years ago, said South
Africa was in good shape but could be do better in terms of
eliminating poverty.

He praised "competent people" like his successor President
Thabo Mbeki, whose ruling African National Congress party faced
its worst crisis this year over a corruption scandal and rape
allegations surrounding former deputy president Jacob Zuma.

"When people have to send children to school from a shack
where they don't have electricity, it's very painful," he said.

"But I'm sure that one day all these problems will be
addressed. Generally I'm satisfied with the current state of
the country. I am very content."