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Mandela returns to his village ahead of 93rd birthday

South Africa’s ailing former president Nelson Mandela has returned to his childhood village ahead of his 93rd birthday on Monday, his foundation said Friday.

“Former president Mandela is in Qunu at the moment,” said Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesman Sello Hatang.

However he refused to comment on whether the Nobel peace prize winner was going to spend his birthday at the village or in Johannesburg.

The Times newspaper said Mandela arrived in Mthatha, a city close to the village in the Eastern Cape on Thursday.

“Mandela arrived on a military medical aircraft at the Mthatha Airport just after 2.30pm (1230 GMT),” on Thursday, the leading South African daily said.

He was welcomed by “a motorcade consisting of traffic authority vehicles, police and VIP protection unit members and ambulances,” the paper said.

Journalists were barred from taking pictures and turned away from the airport.

His trip to Qunu village comes as the world prepares to celebrate Mandela Day on Monday, where the public is asked to give 67 minutes of their time for volunteer work, one minute for each year Mandela devoted to the struggle for equality in South Africa.

This is the second visit to Qunu by the frail anti-apartheid icon, who has been receiving round-the-clock medical care at home since his release from hospital in January for an acute respiratory infection.

He last visited Qunu in May and returned to Johannesburg on June 2.

“Among those present to receive Mandela at the airport were members of his medical team,” the newspaper said.

Mandela was elected the country’s first black president in South Africa’s first all-race vote in 1994 and served one term before stepping down in 1999.