Family members wish Nelson Mandela a happy 94th birthday at his home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape. Picture: Peter Morey

Nelson Mandela celebrated his 94th birthday at his homestead in Qunu on Wednesday surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Altogether 24 of his relatives gathered at his home, said one of his grandsons, Ndaba Mandela.

Although the people of Qunu would have preferred to have seen more of Mandela, his family chose for him to spend the day with his closest loved ones.

“He is in good spirits and looking very well,” granddaughter Ndileka Mandela told AFP by phone from Qunu.

He enjoyed the love and attention.

“He likes to have the buzz around him,” said Ndileka.

From the variety of his favourite dishes on offer for a birthday lunch that included tripe, corn samp and dumplings, Mandela chose fish and vegetables, said Ndileka.

Outside the privacy of the Mandela home, celebrations erupted across the small village, where Mandela lived until the age of nine.

Traditional dance groups performed at the three schools and at the museum, and lessons, tree-planting ceremonies and painting of school walls took place.

Hundreds of people converged at the Great Place in Mvezo, where they joined the traditional chief of Mvezo, Mandla Mandela, another of Mandela’s grandsons, at his headquarters for celebrations. Nelson Mandela was born at Mvezo on July 18, 1918.

Earlier in the day, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale addressed a two-day colloquium at the museum in Qunu, during which he said: “Today, the leaders of the world, presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens and millions of people from all walks of life… are in unison rejoicing in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s birthday.

“Powerful legacies are measured by the firm footprints left by giants in the sands of time.

“And today we are celebrating the life and times of one of the most important and emblematic of icons, Nelson Mandela,” he said.

Former US president Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea accompanied Mandela’s wife Graça Machel to his home on Tuesday to congratulate him.

Pretoria News, IOL