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   South Africa : Mandela Updated:   22/07/2003 03:32 - (SA)
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'Mandela, a watchman'
18/07/2003 16:04  - (SA)  

Johannesburg - Tributes poured in on Friday as former South African president Nelson Mandela celebrated his 85th birthday.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in an appreciation published in the South African press on Friday, said he gave Mandela as an example when people asked him what difference one person could make "in the face of injustice, conflict, human rights violations, mass poverty and disease".

"To this day," Annan wrote, "Madiba (Mandela's Xhosa clan name) remains probably the single most admired, most respected international figure in the entire world.

"He continues to to inspire millions of people and several generations throughout the globe, by continuing to fight for reconciliation before recrimination, healing before bitterness, peace before conflict; by fighting for health, for education, for the right of every child to have a better start in life ... "

Former US president Bill Clinton wrote: "President Mandela has taught us so much about so many things. Perhaps the greatest lesson, especially for young people, is that, while bad things do happen to good people, we still have the freedom and responsibility to decide how to respond to injustice, cruelty and violence and how they will affect our spirits, hearts and minds."

Mandela's successor, President Thabo Mbeki, wrote: "Nelson Rolihlahla Madiba Mandela is God's gift to our country, South Africa, our continent, Africa, and the world at large ... He will remain an icon for all time whenever and wherever people have discourse about human yearnings for freedom and justice."

American comedian Bill Cosby described Mandela as a "world cultural icon ... a watchman, towering over his nation, a man whose gift of wisdom and human understanding is uncommon in our time."

Said Anglican archbishop emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, a close friend, of Mandela's 27 years in prison: "It gave him a new depth, helped him to be more understanding of the foibles of others, to be more generous, more tolerant, more magnanimous and it gave him an unassailable credibility and integrity and so he could be as he was when he emerged from prison, willing to extend a hand of friendship to his former adversaries and be generous when they were vanquished."

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