Mandela would have liked more family time but "no regrets"

Other News Materials 18 July 2008 17:52 (UTC +04:00)

Looking back on his 90 years, former South African president Nelson Mandela said Friday that he would have liked to spend more time with family but that he had no regrets about devoting his life to the struggle for democracy, reported dpa.

Mandela was celebrating his 90th birthday Friday with family and friends in Qunu, his ancestral village in Eastern Cape province.

On receiving a birthday kiss and flowers from one of his granddaughters at his Qunu home, Mandela was asked by a reporter whether he wished he had spent more time with his family.

"I am sure for many people that is their wish. I also have that wish that I spent more time (with family). But I don't regret it." the anti-apartheid icon, who spent 27 years in prison, said.

Mandela, who was sitting with his third wife, former Mozambican first lady Graca Machel, also expressed sympathy for his country's poor.

"Poverty has gripped our people. If you are poor, you are not likely to live long," he said.

"There are many people in South Africa who are rich, and who can share those riches with those not so fortunate, who have not been able to conquer poverty," he added.

Qunu is abuzz with preparations for Mandela's birthday party on Saturday, with lines of bare-breasted village women in traditional beaded skirts seen making winding their way into his compound with baskets on their head.

SAfm radio reported that traditional African fare, such as tripe, sheep's head and oxtail, was on the menu for the party. Guests will also be able to dig into less traditional offerings such as the double toffee ice-cream beloved of the elderly statesman.