Ido Lekota

Ido Lekota

ANC president Jacob Zuma has called former president Nelson Mandela the glue that holds both the ruling party and South African nation together.

Zuma was addressing thousands of people who gathered at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria to celebrate Mandela's 90th birthday on Saturday.

The event was attended by ANC honchos, including Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki.

Zuma also called on all South Africans to learn from Mandela's legacy of selflessness and humility.

"Tata, your legacy is a book for all to read. If we don't learn it cannot be your fault. You have played your part," he said.

Zuma said the ANC was honoured and blessed to have an icon of Mandela's calibre "in our organisation and in our country".

"We know that you expect nothing more from the masses of our people than to see the fulfilment of the vision of a peaceful, prosperous, nonsexist, nonracial and democratic SA," Zuma said.

"You have always provided leadership and direction during the most decisive moments in our history."

In his speech Mandela said the ANC needed disciplined leaders who respected those they lead.

He said ANC members should celebrate the party's tradition of open debate, criticism, discussion and respect for democracy.

"We fought hard for this democracy. Protect, defend, consolidate and advance democracy within the ANC and in national life."