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Mandela: SA now needs disciplined leaders
Now as much as ever in its history, SA requires disciplined leaders, Nelson Mandela said at a birthday celebration in his honour on Saturday.

Now as much as ever in its history, South Africa requires disciplined leaders, former president Nelson Mandela said at a birthday celebration in his honour at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

The African National Congress (ANC) now is the inheritor of a great organisation, Mandela said, one that has led for almost a century. "It is now in your hands to uphold the best and the noblest of that history."

He added: "I would be nothing without the ANC. I thank the ANC for having given meaning to my 90 years on this planet."

Thousands of people had gathered at the venue with some wearing white T-shirts bearing the face of Mandela while others held flags. Security in and around the stadium was highly visible with metro police officers blocking several streets leading to the venue.

Mandela, wearing a pale yellow, flowery shirt, asked the public not to celebrate him as an individual but to celebrate the achievements and reaffirm the values of a great organisation, one that has led for almost 100 years. He also urged the public to celebrate and reaffirm the principle of collective leadership and inclusiveness.

"Let no individual, section, faction or group ever regard itself as greater than the organisation and the common good of all our people. Our nation comes from a history of deep division and strife. Let us never through our deeds or words take our people back down that road," he said.

Mandela said South Africans have fought hard and sacrificed much for democracy. "Protect, defend, consolidate and advance democracy -- within the organisation and in national life."

He also said that South Africans should reaffirm their fundamental commitment to creating a better life for all, particularly the poor and marginalised.

"Poverty and deprivation in our midst demean all of us. We came together as a nation to end the scourge of apartheid. Today we are challenged to end poverty and all its attendant suffering," he said.

Earlier, Mandela was seated next to President Thabo Mbeki while birthday messages were read out in his honour. He cut his birthday cake with the help of family members and ANC leaders.

He was received by the crowd with a standing ovation as soon as he appeared on stage alongside ANC president Jacob Zuma and Mbeki.

Other dignitaries present at the celebrations included ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa, the ANC Women's League's newly elected leader, Angie Motshekga, and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and newly inducted Cabinet Minister Kgalema Motlanthe were also spotted.

Holding the nation together
Speaking earlier at Saturday's event, ANC president Jacob Zuma said Mandela is the glue that holds the revolutionary movement together, and which continues to hold the nation together.

He said the ANC is honoured and truly blessed to have an icon of Mandela's calibre in its midst, in the organisation and in the 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, non-sexist, non-racial and democratic South Africa. You have always provided leadership and direction during the most decisive moments in our history," he said.

Zuma, wearing a black-and-white golf shirt bearing Mandela's face, made several references to Mandela's life during the struggle and some important historical moments.

"In 1944, when the time came to infuse some life into the struggle to face a brutal regime, you played a key role in the formation of the ANC Youth League," he said. "You did the same in 1949, when militancy was required, during the defiance campaign. You led from the front as you wanted an end to racial domination and hatred."

Zuma said Mandela's so-called M-plan was and still is an inspiration for the ANC. The plan saw ANC branches broken down into a nationwide underground network of smaller cells.

"The M-plan should serve as an inspiration for ANC branches currently. We are encouraging them to establish street committees to fight crime in our communities," he said.

He also said that Mandela taught South Africans humility and the necessity of collective wisdom and leadership.

"As the struggle continued, waged internally and internationally, you represented the undying spirit of a people who would never rest until justice and human dignity were restored. The Mandela name became synonymous with our struggle for freedom," he said.

Reference was also made to PW Botha's offer of conditional freedom in 1985 when Mandela said in a statement that "only free men can negotiate".

Zuma said that Mandela's release from prison in 1990 brought the world to a standstill. He said that when Mandela cast a vote for the first time on April 27 1994, he carried our dreams and aspirations.

"During your term as the first president of a free South Africa, you elevated this country from being a pariah to a respected successful modern democracy. You served a very short but highly effective term before handing over to your deputy, Comrade Mbeki, in a carefully planned succession strategy."

Zuma said the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and the Nelson Mandela Foundation have changed the lives of many, especially children. "You continued to work tirelessly to make South Africa a better country, and to put a smile on the faces of many. Your legacy is a book for all to read. If we do not learn, it cannot be your fault," he said. -- Sapa