Statement on Nelson Mandela's 90th BirthdayAbout the Author: Mary Deane Conners is the Public Affairs Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa.
Nelson Mandela turned 90 on July 18, 2008. Affectionately known as Madiba -- the clan name given to him at the "initiation ceremony" during his teenage years -- former South African President Mandela began receiving birthday wishes from the entire nation and the world for weeks prior to his birth date. From the "46664" (his number in prison) concert held in London, to the birthday party in the village of his youth, Qunu, in the rural Eastern Cape Province, there has been an outpouring of local and international respect and goodwill.
The print and electronic media have been particularly active in reporting on the many events related to Mandela's birthday and in facilitating the conveying of goodwill messages. The national broadcaster (SABC) aired many times daily its "Happy Birthday" message on all its television channels and radio stations for two weeks prior to July 18. All South Africa's most important newspapers carried multiple articles, full-scale inserts, editorials and opinion pieces, covering Madiba's life and times. The Independent Newspapers Group published a 16-page insert with the title "Happy 90th Madiba" for its various newspapers throughout the country. Articles, pictures and messages of goodwill filled each page. The Times featured a full page, front cover photograph of Madiba on July 18 with the message "Happy 90th birthday NELSON MANDELA." The Mail & Guardian featured a cartoon on the front page depicting a smiling Madiba with one of his famous shirts featuring the number "90" and many faces, young and old. Title: "Madiba @ 90: His greatness, his presents, his letters, the cartoons" and followed with an insert of nine pages in the main body of the paper.
It is difficult to overestimate the role Nelson Mandela plays in the South African psyche. He is the man, released from decades of unjust imprisonment, but without bitterness, who came to lead a nation and embody all of its finest hopes and aspirations. He brought South Africa together to create a better future.