Nelson Mandela has celebrated his 86th birthday with his family - including his ex-wife WINNIE.

The former South African president cut his birthday cake with both Winnie and current wife GRACA MACHEL at his side during a party at his Eastern Cape home - where tributes poured in.

President Thabo Mbeki described his predecessor from 1994 to 1999 as "an icon of his age".

He adds, "The world has not the honours at its disposal to fully salute his life's work."

The AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS, the former liberation movement turned political party, says, "To our beloved former president and world-acclaimed icon of our liberation struggle".

It praised Mandela's key role in South Africa's successful campaign to win the right to host the 2010 World Cup.

The party adds, "You continue to strive the world stage like a colossus."

In Johannesburg, thousands of runners took part in an annual race held on his birthday and which takes participants across the Nelson Mandela Bridge, which was inaugurated last year (03).

19/07/2004 17:08