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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 July, 2003, 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK
Mandela feted at gala dinner
Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel arrive for the gala dinner
Mandela and his wife were met by loud cheers of well-wishers
Heads of states and celebrities from around the world joined Nelson Mandela at a gala dinner in Johannesburg - the highlight of a series of events to mark his 85th birthday.

Among the 1,600 guests at the banquet were Bill and Hillary Clinton, stars of the stage and screen like Naomi Campbell, Robert De Niro and Oprah Winfrey, singer Bono, and Mr Mandela's cook and gardener.

Security was been extremely tight for the guests at the Sandton Convention Centre, who walked up the red carpet to the sounds of a marimba band and an African choir.

Walking with a cane, a radiant Mr Mandela and his wife Graca Machel received a standing ovation at the entrance of the Centre.

Inside the banquet hall, retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered prayers before the dinner began.

Huge banners commemorating milestones in Mr Mandela's life were hung from the walls, while the guests chatted to the background of music from Johnny Clegg and Ladysmith Black Mambaza.

"If you want to give Mandela a birthday present, do something to deal with Africa's challenges, do something to untap Africa's economy," said Mr Clinton, as he delivered the first annual Nelson Mandela Lecture speech ahead of the dinner.

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Nelson Mandela cuts his birthday cake on Friday
082 15 885 - for local mobile voice messages
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On Saturday, Mr Mandela attended the funeral in Soweto of his daughter-in-law Zondi Mandela who died of pneumonia aged 46.

She was the wife of his only remaining son Makgatho, and mother of his three sons.

On Friday, well-wishers began gathering at the Mandela home in Johannesburg shortly after dawn to mark Mr Mandela's birthday.

Numerous renditions of "Happy Birthday" were sung, as a 35-member band played a specially-composed "Madiba March" and "Happy Birthday" on brass instruments and bagpipes.

Wedding anniversary

Mr Mandela spent the latter part of the day with family, including more than 30 grand- and great-grand-children, who hosted a dinner party for him.

He also celebrated the fifth anniversary of his marriage to his third wife Graca Machel - the widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel who was killed in a plane crash in 1986.

Tributes poured in from around the world.

A special website has been set up and messages collected are to be presented to Mr Mandela on CD-Roms.

The South African phone company Telkom and national broadcaster SABC are also trying to break the world record for phone tributes and raise money for Mr Mandela's children's charity.

While world leaders sent formal messages of congratulations, ordinary people had already sent more than 34,000 text messages (SMS) and 20,000 telephone message greetings by Friday evening, BBC News Online was told.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Allyson Griffiths
"1600 invited guests walked the red carpet"



SEE ALSO:
Europe urged to boost Aids funds
14 Jul 03  |  Health
No peace for workaholic Mandela
02 Mar 03  |  Africa


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