- Oldest ex-MLB player dies in Cuba, 2 days shy of 103rd birthday
- ‘Top Gun’ for drones: Squadrons of carrier-based killers have Navy’s approval
- Bill Clinton to endorse Charlie Rangel for re-election
- Pfc. Bradley Manning is now Pfc. Chelsea Manning: Court says so
- Secret base U.S. special forces used to train Libyans now under terrorist control: report
- 9th suspect in N.C. kidnapping turns self in to FBI
- L.A. sheriff admits to testing flyover spy program without notifying residents
- Foreign minister vows response if Russians are attacked in Ukraine
- Robert Griffin III to drive pace car before Richmond NASCAR race
- Material on Australian shore examined in jet hunt
South Africa: Children attend annual Mandela Christmas party
MVEZO, South Africa (AP) — A couple of decades ago, Nelson Mandela grew withdrawn while feasting with his family on Christmas Day in the part of rural South Africa where the anti-apartheid leader lived as a child. Alarmed by the patriarch’s silence, some relatives looked at him and asked if anything was wrong.
Family members immediately canvassed the neighborhood for children to join their party, rounding up a merry band of 60, and so began an annual tradition that ballooned in popularity. A scaled-down version was held Tuesday in Mvezo, Mr. Mandela‘s birthplace, drawing 300 children to a celebration that its 94-year-old founder could not attend because he is in hospital care.
President Jacob Zuma, meanwhile, joined Mr. Mandela‘s wife, Graca Machel, and other family members to wish a merry Christmas to Mr. Mandela at his hospital bedside in Pretoria, the South African capital.
“We found him in good spirits,” Mr. Zuma said in a statement. “He shouted my clan name, Nxamalala, as I walked into the ward! He was happy to have visitors on this special day and is looking much better. The doctors are happy with the progress that he is making.”
Mr. Mandela was admitted Dec. 8 to a hospital. He was diagnosed with a lung infection and also had a procedure to remove gallstones. Officials previously have said Mr. Mandela was improving but noted that doctors are taking extraordinary care because he is very old.
In Mvezo, it was a rainy day, but the children attending the Mandela party were happy to sweep up sunglasses, dolls, toy cars, blankets and other gifts. They cavorted and whooped under a big tent. Loud music livened the moment. One little girl, however, didn’t get her wish.
The genesis of the homegrown Christmas party is one more entry in the voluminous lore about Mr. Mandela‘s generosity and openness of spirit, which he even extended at times to the jailers who imprisoned him for 27 years under apartheid.
The system of white minority rule eventually was dismantled, opening the way to South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. Mr. Mandela, a Nobel laureate, served one five-year term as president before retiring, and in recent years he has lived near Mvezo in Qunu, a village in which he recalled happy moments as a child.
Mr. Mandela himself was uneasy with the idea of being an icon, and as president he failed to craft a lasting formula for overcoming South Africa’s biggest, post-apartheid problems — poverty and economic inequality. While he was active, he did not escape criticism as an individual and a politician, but he is globally respected as a symbol of decency and principle.
MandlaMandela, the grandson, remembered how the Christmas party that followed the first impromptu one in the 1990s was swamped by more than 1,000 children, three times as many as were expected. By 2001, nearly 10,000 were showing up. At some point, the chief said, American television personality Oprah Winfrey got involved and there was sponsorship.
“The numbers grew phenomenally,” he said, with tens of thousands of children in attendance.
TWT Video Picks
Feds who send arms against ranch families betray American values
- Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy hailed as patriot, ripped as lawless deadbeat
- CARSON: When government looks more like foe than friend
- Pentagon plans to replace flight crews with 'full-time' robots
- Georgia governor signs bill expanding gun rights
- Texas is next! AG warns BLM wants 90,000 acres after Bundy ranch standoff
- Harry Reid using tax dollars to fight Koch brothers, La. GOP chair charges
- America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic, university study finds
- Opposition rising to Colorado gun control laws
- Ukraine claims torture by pro-Russian forces on the heels of Biden's stern warning to Moscow
- Professor apologizes after blasting Republicans in class
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Celebrity deaths in 2014