25 JULY 2007

Turning 89 apparently couldn't agree more with former South African president Nelson Mandela. The Nobel Prize winner laughed and smiled with glee as 300 youngsters supported by the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund sang Happy Birthday and presented him with cards and presents at an annual party he hosts in Johannesburg. And there was certainly enough cake to go round, as Mr Mandela - affectionately known in his native country as Tata (grandfather) Madiba (his clan name) - cut into a huge chocolate and cream confection, while his wife of nine years Graca Machel looked on.

Still a hero to new generations, it was unsurprising there were many heart-felt tributes. Five-year-old Robert wrote in one card: "You are the goodest man in the world," while little Olerato, also five, said: "Happy Birthday Madiba. I love you. You are the best man ever". The veteran statesman was also presented with a colourful collage made by children from across the continent.

Though he relies on a cane to help him walk, the 89-year-old has said he is in "good spirits" and his team of doctors are "happy" with him.

The ex-statesman marked his actual birthday on Wednesday, July 18, by announcing a global 'council of elders' which includes former US president Jimmy Carter, former Irish president Mary Robinson, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. The group will be dedicated to fostering peace and resolving global crises.

Photo: ©
The former South African president seemed full of joy this week as his 89th birthday celebrations continued with a party for children in JohannesburgPhoto: © AFP
Photo: ©
Youngsters helped by his Children's Fund crowded round as the elder statesman prepared to share his giant chocolate cake with them Photo: © AFP