Nelson Mandela too frail to attend walk reenactment
Former president absent as ANC leaders gather to remember his historic walk to freedom
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, was too frail to attend today's celebrations of the 20th anniversary of his release from 27 years of imprisonment. Thousands of South Africans this morning re-enacted Mandela's epoch-defining 1990 walk through the gates of what was then Victor Verster prison, but 'Madiba' - as he is affectionately known - was not among them.
A larger-than-life-size statue of the former political prisoner, fist in the air, towered over the dozens of ANC leaders who made speeches at the jail - now called the Drakenstein Correctional Centre - celebrating the historic day. Mandela himself, though, was expected only to appear in parliament - a more manageable event for the fragile 91-year-old.
Mandela has not been seen in public for some time. Actor Morgan Freeman told the BBC that when he showed his new film Invictus, in which he plays Mandela, to the former ANC leader last year, Mandela slept through most of the first half - but enjoyed what he did see. In December, he was reported to be declining food.
He rallied, however, and was pictured last week raising a glass of champagne at his home with supporters including his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and ANC grandee Cyril Ramaphosa, both members of the original reception committee formed to greet him on February 11, 1990.
While this morning's celebrations had to go ahead without Mandela, the entire day was in danger of being overshadowed by the troubles surrounding the current president, Jacob Zuma.
Zuma delivers his annual State of the Nation address to his parliamentary colleagues today, all of whom are gathered in Cape Town for the occasion, with the city centre sealed off.
But anticipation of the big speech - and its all-important messages about delivering a better life to the masses - has been tainted by continuing revelations about his extra-polygamous affairs and the many children that he continues to father.
In October, the 39-year-old daughter of an SA football tycoon gave birth to Zuma's most recent baby. Now the Cape Times says two previously uncounted daughters - in addition to the officially counted 20 children - have come to light.
The headline in this morning's paper read: "More Zuma children revealed". And the rumours in political circles are that there are plenty more still to be counted. ·
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