By Paul Toohey
The (Australia) Daily Telegraph
With his obituaries already mostly written and published, Nelson Mandela – said to be on the brink of death earlier this month – quietly turns 95 today.
The revolutionary hero has made a dramatic improvement, his daughter revealed yesterday.
Zindzi Mandela said her father, whose 95th birthday is today, has been watching television in his bed in hospital and that he smiles at family members and raises his hand. I should think he will be going home anytime soon,’ said Zindzi, whose mother is Mandela’s second wife, Winnie.
Just a fortnight ago, the former South African president was said to be in a persistent vegetative state and near death.
He has been in a Pretoria hospital with a lung infection since June 8 and officials say his condition is critical but stable.
Although Mandela remains gravely ill, his wife, Graca Machel, told a Johannesburg radio station recently: “I am less anxious than I was a week ago.”
The UN has declared July 18 International Nelson Mandela Day, with messages coming from world figures such as former President Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama, who have asked people to use the day to commit to small acts of kindness that can “change the world”.
Unions are organizing activities to mark the birthday in South Africa, including a 67km run — one kilometre for every year Mandela fought for his people’s rights — the building of a commemorative wall and the dedication of schools in Mandela’s name.
South African President Jacob Zuma, who said Mandela had responded to him with eye movements and the smallest of hand gestures, will use the day to make a statement he hopes will bring the still-troubled country closer.
Remarks by former South African president Thabo Mbeki that Mandela could soon be discharged to return home have been variously interpreted as signs of hope or a signal
that doctors can do nothing more and will allow him to die at home.
The anti-apartheid hero, who in 1990 emerged from 27 years as a political prisoner talking of reconciliation, won the presidency in 1994 and kept his vow to only serve one term.
Mandela’s illness has spared him from knowing the full unedifying details of ugly family feuds and attempts to cash in on his name. Bloomberg News reports a daughter and several grandchildren are using his name to sell alcohol and a reality TV show, Being Mandela.
Two of Mandela’s granddaughters had a clothing line called Long Walk To Freedom, from the title of his best-selling autobiography and others are trying to to seize trust funds. His grandson, Mandla, also faces grave tampering charges after exhuming the bodies of three of Mandela’s children and relocating them.