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World - Africa

Mandela gets married on 80th birthday

Mandela and Graca Machel
Mandela and Graca Machel hold hands at their wedding  
July 18, 1998
Web posted at: 12:34 p.m. EDT (1634 GMT)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- President Nelson Mandela married 52-year-old companion Graca Machel from Mozambique at a private ceremony on Saturday -- the same day he celebrated his 80th birthday.

Deputy President Thabo Mbeki announced that Mandela and Machel, the widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel, were married in a civil ceremony at the president's private home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton.

Buthelezi wants Inkatha role in South African government

CNN's Garrick Utley reports on the life of Nelson Mandela
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Key dates in Mandela's life

(CNN) -- Here are some key dates in South African President Nelson Mandela's life:

1918 -- Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, in Qunu, near Umtata, Transkei; eldest son of a Tembu chief.

1964 -- Mandela and seven others sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, off Cape Town.

1990 -- President F.W. de Klerk lifts ban on the African National Congress and frees Mandela.

1994 -- Mandela wins first all-races general election and becomes South Africa's first black president.

1996 -- He wins divorce from Winnie, whom he said cheated on him and caused him embarrassment and anguish.

1997 -- Mandela hands leadership of ANC to Deputy President Thabo Mbeki in first stage of phased transfer of power.

Mbeki made the announcement in Pretoria, saying that the couple had been married by the chief magistrate of Johannesburg.

Mandela -- who is divorced from his former wife Winnie -- and Machel went public with their relationship last year.

Machel, described as one of the most influential people in Mozambique, is a lawyer and international campaigner for children's rights. The couple met in 1990 shortly after Mandela was released from prison.

They had previously denied rumors they planned to wed, even after Archbishop Desmond Tutu publicly but light-heartedly chastised them, saying they were setting a bad example for young people.

The announcement came as Mandela celebrated his birthday quietly with his family in the sandstone house first used by the apartheid rulers who jailed him for 27 years.

Mandela received a number of friends bringing gifts and food to MahlambaNdlopfu, the official presidential residence overlooking Pretoria.

Mandela gets help in blowing out the candles on his birthday cake  

Amina Cachalia, who fought apartheid with Mandela before he was jailed in 1962, led a delegation of Indian women taking him a giant curry.

"It was just so wonderful," she said in an interview afterwards. "He was in wonderful spirits and he spent so much time with the children."

Cachalia was among a handful of old friends allowed, mostly in the company of many children, to pay respects to Mandela on what he told her was "a very precious, private day."

Others included South African filmmaker Anant Singh who took Mandela a bottle of the hair oil he liked to use while jailed on Robben Island in Cape Town's Table Bay.

Mandela singing and dancing with children at a birthday party held for him in Kruger National Park on Thursday  

MahlambaNdlopfu, which in the Tsonga language means the place where the elephant bathes, was the official residence of South Africa's apartheid presidents.

Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail for fighting apartheid, gave it the name after he slept there on May 10, 1994, following his inauguration as the country's first black president.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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