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Clinton lauds Mandela

Clinton spoke during Mandela Day celebrations in New York.

Former US President Bill Clinton hailed former President Nelson Mandela during a special ceremony at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 18 July in honour of Mandela's Birthday and World Mandela Day.Picture:EWN

NEW YORK - Former US President Bill Clinton says Nelson Mandela's ability to overcome hatred for his detractors is what makes him such a great man.

The Presidency confirmed on Thursday that Madiba's health is improving.

The positive news came as the entire world celebrated the global icon's 95th birthday and World Mandela Day with people asked to give 67 minutes of their time to community service.

Clinton was speaking at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York on Thursday during a special ceremony held in honour of Madiba's birthday.

Also in attendance was UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, Reverend Jesse Jackson, singer Harry Belafonte and Andrew Mahlangeni who was imprisoned with Madiba.

"Mandela's heart was so big and his humanity so great that we often had trouble keeping our official roles apart from our personal friendship."

Clinton also said that Madiba is proof that you don't have to be in public office to serve the public and that's what World Mandela Day is all about.

"First we must free ourselves then we must free and empower others then we must serve as a way of life not as a route to office."

Clinton said Mandela's overcoming of hatred for his oppressors during the apartheid "demon" is a sign of his greatness.

Meanwhile, residents in New York used Mandela Day as a platform to make donations to the planned Nelson Mandela children's hospital in Johannesburg.

The city led events in the US commemorating the day, which began at the UN and ended at Gotham Hall with a fundraiser held by the Legacy of Hope Foundation.

The honourary committee board of the foundation included Whoopi Goldberg, Charlize Theron and Natali Portman.

Robert De Niro attended an event held at the South African consulate to express his gratitude to Madiba.

INVESTING IN THE YOUTH

Mandela's grandchildren say investing in the youth of today will ensure their grandfather's legacy is brought forward.

A number of the statesman's grandchildren spent Thursday morning at the SOS Children's Village in Mamelodi as part of the Mandela Day Celebrations.

Mbuso Mandela said Mandela day is about giving back to the community.

"Through social upliftment you are able to add to the betterment of the country and the betterment of tomorrow."

Zondwa Mandela says the country should be more focused on the youth.

"Any way shape or form that we can influence or impact positively on the lives of our youth is building a better future for this country."

QUNU's PRIDE

Mandla Mandela, Mandela's eldest grandson, says he is optimistic about his grandfather's health.

He says he often talked to his grandfather about turning 100 with his grandfather saying "just one day at a time."

Mandla says the community of Qunu, where Madiba was born, has a great sense of pride knowing a global icon started his life here

"He is a true testament that anyone can reach out for their dreams."

Mandla,whose been at the centre of a family dispute over the exhumation and reburial of his relatives, spent the day doing a number of community based projects in his home village of Mvezo.