Happy Birthday to you, Mr Mandela

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The Independent Online

Communities across South Africa yesterday marked Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday and the first 'Mandela Day' – an international day devoted to public service in honour of the anti-apartheid icon.

Mr Mandela, who is now largely retired from public life, spent the day with close family at his Johannesburg home. Earlier, schoolchildren from Eastern Cape province, where he grew up, had been flown to the city to sing him birthday songs.

Leaders around the world paid tribute to Mr Mandela, who stepped down as South African president in 1999. US President Barack Obama praised his "extraordinary vision, leadership, and spirit", and UN chief Ban Ki-Moon described him as "a towering figure" who "embodies the highest values of humanity". South Africa's President Jacob Zuma visited Mvezo, the district where Mr Mandela was born, to plant trees and participate in painting a school building, while Mr Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, helped plant a vegetable garden at a Soweto orphanage.