Nelson Mandela celebrates 20 years of freedom

SOUTH African politicians sang Nelson Mandela's praises as the anti-apartheid icon settled into parliament's public gallery for a State of the Nation address scheduled in tribute to his 20 years of freedom.

Mandela was released in 1990 after spending 27 years in prison and went on to lead South Africa through the last stretch of a stunning, peaceful revolution from apartheid to democracy.

His release was remembered as triumphant yesterday, but that moment was uncertain and anxious for South Africa, and it is a testimony to Mandela's statesmanship that things went so well.

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Mandela, now 92, has largely retired from public life, but appeared to revel in the attention at parliament.

South Africa marked the anniversary with speeches, exhibits tracing Mandela's life, radio and TV specials and newspaper supplements.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has often spoken of his admiration for Mandela, said the anti-apartheid struggle "was the defining political question of our time". Mr Brown said he has "a generosity of spirit that lifts the world".

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