Nelson Mandela 'Doing Great' As He Turns 93

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As the world celebrated his life with song and service, former South African president Nelson Mandela spent the day of his birth surrounded by family in his hometown of Qunu.

"There were times when we never thought he'd get to 93," his son Mandla Mandela told ABC News today. "We're fortunate to see him, as a family, to see him being strong and going at 93."

South African schoolchildren started the day with a special version of "Happy Birthday" to the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after being jailed for 27 years for his efforts against apartheid.

People around the globe were urged to mark the day with 67 minutes spent giving back.

'Mandela Day'

"He has been politically active for 67 years," Mandla Mandela said of his father. "At least on his birthday, people should commit 67 minutes of their time giving back to their communities."

Nazly Mazet, a Johannesburg mother for four, took her children to a local hall so they could play with disadvantaged children.

"Being South African means volunteering your time on Mandela Day," she told The Associated Press. "[Mandela is] the person that represents our freedom, opportunities for everyone."

Mandla Mandela said that his father was doing great. In January, he was treated for an acute respiratory infection. Although Nelson Mandela has made fewer public appearances recently, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama met him for the first time during a weeklong trip in June to South Africa.

"He always wanted to be home," he said. "He's always wanted to be in his surroundings of that place."

That place -- Qunu -- is the remote, rural village about 600 miles from Johannesburg where Nelson Mandela lived as a child. For him, it is still home.

"Being in the city, he's confined within the walls," Mandla Mandela told ABC News. "He doesn't see the grassfields, what he used to see when he was growing up."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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