Family and friends honour Mandela

Songs, laughter, teasing and tender words marked Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday at a grand luncheon for presidents, village elders and African royalty in a rural area where the Nobel Peace Prize winner had once herded cattle as a boy.

Songs, laughter, teasing and tender words marked Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday at a grand luncheon for presidents, village elders and African royalty in a rural area where the Nobel Peace Prize winner had once herded cattle as a boy.

Saturday's festivities followed quieter private celebrations with Mandela's family in this rural village on Friday, the day he turned 90. Saturday was a grand occasion at a festive tent outside his homestead in Qunu. The anti-apartheid icon walked into the tent with his successor, Thabo Mbeki, and ANC leader Jacob Zuma, stopping to personally greet some of the 500 honoured guests as he made his way to the head table.

The guests, many dressed in traditional beaded cloths, animal skins and feather headdresses, cheered and stood while an isiXhosa choir sang: "Here is our hope!" Wearing an intricately patterned shirt in shades of brown, Mandela looked relaxed and cheerful as he listened attentively to the accolades heaped on him.

Mbeki called Mandela a "great liberator". Zuma said the gathering was a celebration of "a life and legacy of a father, grandfather, comrade, warrior, soldier, nation builder and statesman".

Former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda caught the festive mood with a tuneful solo of Happy Birthday followed by a teasing verse: "How old are you? State secret!" Then the 84-year-old Kaunda jogged over to shake Mandela's hand. - Sapa-AP

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