At 08:00 this morning, approximately 12 million people sang ‘happy birthday’ in unison on what is marked as International Nelson Mandela day.
Mr Mandela, who was elected to power in 1994 following the end of the apartheid regime, is spending the day with his family at the Eastern Cape village of Qunu, close to where he was born.
Before his election, he spent 27 years in prison following his anti-apartheid campaigns. His hero status extends to visitors to South Africa, many of whom visit Robben Island, where he was imprisoned, and Mthatha’s Nelson Mandela Museum.
A further popular attraction is Johannesburg’s Nelson Mandela Bridge, which was completed in 2003 and is considered an architectural masterpiece.
Among the better-known figures to sing happy birthday was Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, whose Manchester United team is in Cape Town ahead of a friendly match.
Meanwhile, US president Barack Obama, who visited Mr Mandela with his family last year, said the former South African president possessed “unbreakable will, unwavering integrity and abiding humility”.
“By any measure, Nelson Mandela has changed the arc of history, transforming his country, continent, and the world,” his statement said.
Current South African president Jacob Zuma was expected to visit Mr Mandela this afternoon before flying to China.