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As Health Improves, Mandela Turns 95

  • VOA News

South Africa says former president Nelson Mandela's health is "steadily improving" as he turns 95 years old Thursday.

President Jacob Zuma wished Mandela happy birthday in a statement, saying South Africa is proud to call the international icon its own.

Mandela's daughter, Zindzi Mandela, confirmed Thursday that her father's health is getting better.

"There were a couple of times where I like, was very insecure and uncertain and very afraid, you know, of what might happen," she said. "But over the past three weeks or so I have just seen a huge turnaround."

Zindzi Mandela said she is "confident" her father will return home sometime soon.

The anti-apartheid icon has spent more than a month in a Pretoria hospital after being rushed there for a recurring lung infection.

South Africans are holding big celebrations to mark his birthday, which has been designated an international day of service.

Known as "Mandela Day," people are asked to give 67 minutes of their time doing something charitable, or one minute for each year he dedicated to his struggle for social justice.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who visited South Africa last month, said in a statement late Wednesday that people everywhere can honor Mandela by "heeding his example" through acts of service.

Mandela is revered in South Africa and beyond for his role in ending official racial discrimination and white minority rule. After spending 27 years in prison, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected South Africa's first black president the following year.