Mandela Turns 95, Parallels Public Life of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr.

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By Jacob Cherian | July 19, 2013 11:22 AM EST

With former President and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in the hospital, South Africa and the rest of the world prepare for one of the biggest celebrations in its history - his 95th birthday.

Mandela, who is being treated for a chronic lung ailment at a Pretoria hospital is remembered for his contribution to the anti apartheid movement and for the 67 years of civil service.

In order to commemorate this historic achievement, South Africans have been called to take on charitable activities - specifically for 67 minutes to match Mr. Mandela's 67 years.

The celebrations will begin with the singing of 'Happy Birthday to Mr. Mandela.' His life of public service included assuming the roles of prisoner, activist, lawyer and president. In recognition of this, volunteers will engage in renovation of orphanages, schools, distribution of food and cleaning health care facilities.

Mr Mandela was taken to the hospital on June 8 and has been hospitalized since then for his ailing health. His health is rumoured to be declining, members of his family and President Jacob Zuma have reassured the country that he is making progress.

Despite uncertainty about his health, there are many questions concerning the state of his family and what his death might mean to a country, still ravaged by crime and violence in its cities and the prevailing undertones of the apartheid philosophy.

The end of his life will usher in a new era for South Africa, where it will have to be more responsible politically in order to make it a driving economy with robust supplies of natural resources like fine metals and gold.

"I should think he will be going home anytime soon,'' Zindzi, Mr. Mandela's daughter told Sky TV Wednesday, adding that he was making 'dramatic progress.

The United Nations has declared Mr. Mandela birthday as a day to create awareness about his contributions to the understanding of reconciliation. The day was dubbed Nelson Mandela International Day by the U.N. in recognition of the Nobel Peace Prize winner's achievements.

After an all race election was held in South Africa in 1994, Mr. Mandela became the first black President of South Africa. The former statesman is revered for ending discrimination against black people in the country.

His work on apartheid closely parallels the freedom movement of Mohandas Gandhi, who also practiced law in South Africa and fought discrimination of Indians before returning to India to defy colonial rule by the British. The theme also resonates with Martin Luther King Jr.,who played a similar role in America's civil right movement and ended discrimination against African Americans.

The African National Congress (ANC) called Mr. Mandela's 95 years of 'a life well lived' for the liberation of South Africa and people around the world, reports BBC News.

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