Many, many happy returns, Madiba

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

Just more than 2000 South Africans wished former president and Nobel Peace laureate Nelson Mandela well on his 90th birthday compared with more than 40000 in Tanzania and Germany.

At least 2137 South Africans sent their early birthday messages through to the global icon.

By noon yesterday 69223 messages had been sent to the SMS line.

Tanzania had the highest number of messages with 29879, followed by Germany at 10205.

Only a few South African celebrities sent messages. Musician Arno Carstens' message read: "To a special man on an extra special birthday. Thank you for the smiles and joy you have brought us. Your biggest fan."

Good Hope FM DJ Suga wrote: "Beloved tata Mandela, as you reach a milestone in your life, I want to wish you a very happy birthday! Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do for all South Africans and the world ..."

Former US president Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary said: "Hillary, Chelsea, and I are delighted to join in wishing you a happy 90th birthday ... Your life has been our blessing."

Former British prime minister Tony Blair and wife Cherie wrote: "Your name will forever be associated with the battle for justice, freedom and democracy. Your continuing fight to defeat HIV-Aids ensures you remain a beacon of hope for millions. Happy birthday."

Hyde Park in London rolled out the red carpet for the world's most loved elder statesman with a rocking concert on Friday night.

Tickets were sold for about R1023 each for the three-and-a-half hour concert held to celebrate Mandela's birthday ahead of July 18.

The overjoyed and emotional crowd welcomed Mandela to the stage, supported by his wife Graca Machel.

"We are honoured to be back in London for this wonderful celebration," Mandela said. "But even as we celebrate, let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete.

"We say tonight, after nearly 90 years of life, it is time for new hands to lift the burden. It is in your hands now.

"Where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done. Our work is for freedom for all," he said to deafening applause.

Headlining the concert were Amy Winehouse, Queen, Sugar Babes, Jamelia, Eddie Grant, Will Smith, Leona Lewis, Sipho Mabuse, Johnny Clegg, Loyiso Bala, Malaika and the Soweto Gospel Choir.