Thabo Mbeki

Johannesburg - The ANC and its youth league wished former president Thabo Mbeki a happy 72nd birthday on Wednesday.

“There are very few people who dedicated all they are and neglected all they could have been for this generation's well-being, dignity and unity of all South Africans,” ANCYL spokesman Bandile Masuku said in a statement.

“Comrade president Mbeki has been a dedicated selfless volunteer of the ANC all his adult life, for that, we will always hold him in high regard and he is one of the very few living icons of our time.”

Mbeki's birthday came days after the funeral of his mother Epainette Mbeki.

Mbeki's mother died in the Life St Dominic's Hospital in East London, Eastern Cape on June 8, aged 98. Her official provincial funeral was in Dutywa on Saturday.

The African National Congress said Mbeki's birthday was an opportunity for South Africans to recommit to unity.

“As we mark (former) president Mbeki's birthday today, it is fitting... that we continue to honour the legacy of selflessness and sacrifice bestowed upon us by generations of freedom fighters and activists who have been at the forefront of the uninterrupted struggle of our people for over 102 years,” spokesman Zizi Kodwa said.

“We must use days such as this one, when we celebrate a revolutionary, to recommit ourselves to our historic mission to unite the African people and spearhead the struggle for fundamental political, social, and economic change.”