Nelson Mandela turns 83 still waxing strong

Johannesburg- South Africa (PANA) -- Nelson Mandela turned 83 on Wednesday, which also marked the third anniversary of his wedding to Gracia Machel, widow of the late Mozambican President Samora Machel.
Once an amateur boxer, lawyer, political activist, prisoner and first President of post-apartheid South Africa, the active octogenarian little sign of slowing down.
Always ready to enjoy a light moment with children, ordinary people and celebrities alike, Mandela continues to be among the most photographed newsmakers.
Last weekend Mandela and Hollywood actor Arnold Schwazenegger lit a flame for the Special Olympics at Robben Island, where Mandela passed most of the 27 years he spent in jail.
But, like most things involving Mandela, the island has been transformed from being the most abhorred prison in South Africa to a national monument that has attracted hundreds of tourists from all over the world.
Former US President Bill Clinton once visited the island and saw for himself the resilience of those who survived the yoke of oppression.
Later he remarked that it was amazing that a man could be put through so much hardship for so long and yet emerge from it all without bitterness.
Mandela's love for life is evident by his own admission that he has an eye for beautiful women.
Princess Diana, model Naomi Campbell, Actress Chlize Theron are among the many beautiful women he has been photographed with.
Ever smiling and flamboyant in his trademark "Madiba shirts" - the loyal and disciplined member of the ANC as he prefers to describe himself - has a very soft spot for children and their welfare.
In the last few years, Mandela has persuaded big businesses to part with more than 170 million rand (1 US dollar = R8.
20 Rands) to build and upgrade schools in rural areas.
About 120 schools have benefited from Mandela's work, some of them being equipped with state-of-the-art computer systems.
Besides children, Mandela also plays a serious role in international politics, where he has made his mark as a mediator.
Recently he announced that he had clinched a deal to bring peace to war-ravaged Burundi.
The PLO had even sought his magic touch to end the conflict in the Middle East, but the wise "old man" of South African politics declined the invitation to mediate.
Family members said Mandela would take time off his busy schedule to relax at home and celebrate a quiet birthday.
Mandela himself said he wanted to rest on his birthday and "forget about the problems of the world.
" Callers to South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) radio jammed the station with birthday messages for Mandela.
A weekend newspaper, 'The Sunday Times,' quoted Mandela as saying he had no desire to live to be 150, but "wanted to live the life I can afford.
" Presently, Mandela is writing a book about his presidency, and his office said he spends two weeks of each month dedicated solely to the book.

18 july 2001 09:29:00

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