Mandela back in his home town of Qunu
As celebrities, joined by ordinary people, film a 'happy birthday' song for him
FORMER president Nelson Mandela made a low-key return to his home in Qunu village yesterday after spending four months in Johannesburg while his Transkei home was being renovated.
Mandela left Qunu, his birthplace, on January 29 this year for Houghton, Johannesburg, but has returned in time to celebrate his 94th birthday on July 18.
Officials said at the time he had left to allow builders to renovate a section of the home he had built after his release from prison in 1990.
As Mandela made the move yesterday, a crowd of about 500 people including music stars such as Yvonne Chaka Chaka, PJ Powers, Kurt Darren and ordinary people gathered at the Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton to shoot the Happy Birthday song for him.
The former statesman arrived at Mthatha Airport in a private jet at about 2.15pm. About 30 minutes later he was whisked away in an ambulance accompanied by protection vehicles to Qunu.
His departure or arrival usually causes a spectacle among the locals and the media, but this time only a few people seemed to have caught the whiff of his return.
Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said Mandela lived in his Johannesburg and Qunu residences interchangeably, depending on his wishes at any particular time. "He has indicated his wish to go back to Qunu at this point."
The Presidency used the opportunity to remind all South Africans of the need to respect his privacy and that of his family.
On Monday, President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela was in good health.
"We constantly assure him of the love, support and good wishes of millions of South Africans and people around the world."
In January last year, there was a brief global flurry with international media flocking to Qunu when rumours he had been admitted to hospital did the rounds.
The silence from both the government and the ANC fuelled the rumours even further, causing a global outpouring of concern for Mandela. Officials said then he had been admitted for "routine tests", but it later emerged he had had a severe respiratory problem and possibly a collapsed lung.
The government has since then tightened privacy around Mandela's activities and movements.