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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July, 2005, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
S Africa marks Mandela birthday
Nelson Mandela with sketch for comic book
A comic book is planned to document Mr Mandela's life
Celebrations are taking place in South Africa to mark Nelson Mandela's 87th birthday.

They started in Mr Mandela's former prison cell on Robben Island with the lighting of a torch.

This will be carried across South Africa to raise awareness about HIV-Aids.

The former president will spend his birthday at his family home at Qunu in Eastern Cape province, hosting a party for orphaned and vulnerable children.

The torch will be carried from Robben Island, near Cape Town, to Johannesburg where it will be used to light candles on a birthday cake for Mr Mandela at Ellis Park Stadium on Saturday.

Difficult year

Mr Mandela has launched an exhibition of gifts he has received over the years.

Next month will see the publication of the first in a series of comic-style books to educate young people about the life and times of the former president.

Over the next few days, the birthday celebrations will also be marked by a series of public lectures with the theme "The meaning of Mandela".

These will look at the former president's role, both in the transition of his country from white minority rule to democracy, and in the fight against HIV-Aids.

It has been a difficult year for Nelson Mandela, with his son, Makgatho, dying of Aids in January.

In recent months Mr Mandela has been embroiled in a bitter legal battle with his former legal adviser over the use of the Mandela name for fundraising purposes.

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