JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Nelson Mandela said on Monday he “never imagined” reaching the age of 88 as he received one of his first birthday presents — a shipment of rum and cigars from Cuban President Fidel Castro.
As well wishes poured in ahead of the anti-apartheid icon’s birthday on Tuesday, Mandela held a private party with the staff of his foundation and blew out candles on a giant birthday cake.
La Grange said presents for Mandela were beginning to arrive from around the world, including a pair of hand-made sheepskin slippers from village women in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province and the special birthday shipment from Cuba’s Castro.
“The president kept his promise and sent the rum and cigars,” La Grange said of Castro. Mandela, however, is a committed anti-smoker and not known as a drinker.