KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 18, CMC – Jamaica joined the international community in celebrating the 94th birthday of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela, saying his fight for justice and peace “should inspire us to emulate his tenacity, fixity of purpose and deep regard for the dignity of the human person”.
Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister A.J. Nicholson described Mandela as a “patriot, humanitarian and one of the most inspirational leaders of our time” and that Jamaica would recognize his “exceptional legacy by committing 67 minutes of our time in service to others, especially our children, who are the focus of our observation of this Day.
“The tremendous contribution of this unique soul, who struggled for justice and equality for all persons regardless of race or creed, should inspire us to emulate his tenacity, fixity of purpose and deep regard for the dignity of the human person.
“Nelson Mandela showed to the world that it is not “the station” to which you are born which is important, but how you treat the precious gift of life, and in so doing use that gift to ensure that the world is a better place for your being there,” Nicholson said.
He said as the country prepares to celebrate 50 years of political independence from Britain “Nelson Mandela provides an ideal mirror from which to view our reflection.
“His resilience, willingness to sacrifice home and family for the greater good of his beloved South Africa, provides us with a template to measure our contribution to the development of Jamaica and make the necessary adjustments to our service and dedication to Jamaica, Land We Love.”
Nearly 12 million children across South Africa kicked off the birthday celebrations with resounding choruses of the song “Happy Birthday”.
Relatives said that Mandela is expected to spend the day privately with his family at their homestead in his southeastern birth village of Qunu.
Meanwhile, communities in South Africa and around the world were dedicating 67 minutes of the day to volunteer work and projects for the needy — one minute to mark each of Mandela’s 67 years in public service.
Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison for his fight against racist apartheid rule.
Tributes to Mandela poured in early Wednesday, with President Obama saying the Nobel Prize winner ”has changed the arc of history, transforming his country, the continent and the world”.