Nelson Mandela continues his long walk at 85

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- Nelson Mandela, the world's favourite elderly statesman, celebrated his 85th birthday on Friday by spending the day surrounded by his family and close friends at his Johannesburg home.
Despite his age, Mandela is showing no signs of slowing down.
He is actively involved in promoting South Africa's cause around the world and his opinion on international issues still carried enormous weight.
More than 13 years have passed since the most famous political prisoner in the world walked free through the gates of Victor Verster Prison near Cape Town, and immediately began steering the land of apartheid towards democracy, freedom and re-admittance into the international arena.
In just four years, Mandela defied the odds and helped steer the country away from a full-blown race war.
After 27 years behind bars, South Africans were confounded by Mandela's lack of bitterness, his grasp of the issues crippling South Africa and his visionary leadership which saw him lead a nation out of the wilderness in just five years.
Following his release, a fierce power struggle ensued before the country's first democratic elections.
Thousands died but many more lives were saved when the majority of South Africans found themselves being lead by Mandela's voice of reason.
Three years after his release from prison, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with South Africa's last white president, F.
de Klerk.
The African National Congress leader was swept into office on a wave of public euphoria in 1994.
He spent most of his four-year term in office dedicated to uniting South Africa's racially divided society, and he remained dedicated to freeing the country of crime, poverty and corruption.
When he handed over the reigns of his presidency to Thabo Mbeki in 1999, he had established himself as one of the most respected leaders in history.
Despite his successes, Mandela's personal life had suffered enormously with his lengthy incarceration.
His marriage to Winnie was on the rocks shortly after his release and when allegations of her infidelity surfaced in the media, a bitter divorce followed.
The Nobel Laureate may have been one of the world's most popular leaders, but he was desperately lonely following the break-up of his marriage.
There was, however, a fairy-tale ending when he met and fell in love with former Mozambican first lady, Graca Machel.
As the world celebrated his 80th birthday, Mandela married Machel at a secret ceremony at his Johannesburg home.
Before his retirement, Mandela expressed his hope that he could retire into obscurity and roam the hills of his beloved Qunu home in the south-eastern area of the country where he was born and raised.
But it was not to be.
He remains busier than ever, dedicating his life to solving conflicts and uplifting the lives of the disadvantaged in South Africa and beyond.

18 july 2003 13:24:00

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