Page last updated at 23:26 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 00:26 UK

Birthday books for Mandela's 90th

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela is celebrating his 90th birthday

Glasgow is sending 50,000 books to South Africa to mark Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday on Friday.

A shipping container, leaving from the city's George Square, will take the consignment to libraries in his home province of Eastern Cape.

The former South African president was given the Freedom of the City in 1981 to mark his struggle to end apartheid.

He accepted the honour in person in 1993 - three years after his release from a 27-year jail term.

A book of birthday messages collected from all over Scotland was also sent off this week.

Fitting tribute

Signatories included First Minister Alex Salmond, senior figures from all the main political parties, the churches and the trades union movement.

The books being dispatched on Friday were sorted and packed by supporters of Action for Southern Africa (Actsa).

This is the sixth container-load sent to Eastern Cape by Actsa since 1995, each one holding about nine tonnes of books.

A spokesman for Actsa said: "It seems very fitting that this gift from Scotland to the children of Nelson Mandela's home province should be dispatched from Glasgow's George Square.

"Nelson Mandela himself stood here in 1993 and spoke to a crowd of thousands when he came to accept the Freedom of the City.

"That was 12 years after Glasgow became the first city in the world to confer that honour on him while he was still in prison for leading the anti-apartheid struggle."


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