Family and friends keep vigil at Mandela bedside
Mood turns to sombre resignation as former South African president’s health declines
Men read about Nelson Mandela’s health in a newspaper in Soweto. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibek/Reuters
A critically ill Nelson Mandela was surrounded by family and friends yesterday at the Pretoria hospital in which he is being treated, while outside a sombre public awaited news on the former South African president’s precarious state of health.
His ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and daughters Zindzi Mandela-Motlhajwa and Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, arrived at the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital to pay their respects, as did defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa.
The mood across the country has turned to one of resignation in relation to Mr Mandela’s health since the presidency described his condition as critical on Sunday evening.
And yesterday’s official update from the presidency did little to dispel a growing feeling amongst his fellow South Africans that the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s health decline may be irreversible.
Addressing the media in a briefing initially scheduled as an off-the-record editors’ briefing, South African president Jacob Zuma said Mr Mandela’s condition had not changed since he had visited him on Sunday evening and been told by doctors that the situation was now critical.
“Mandela remains in a critical condition in hospital and doctors are doing everything possible to ensure his well-being and comfort,” Mr Zuma said, and suggested that “all of us in the country should accept that Madiba [Mr Mandela’s clan name] is now old”.
“I think what we need to do as a country is to pray for him to be well and that the doctors do their work.”
When answering reporters’ questions, Mr Zuma said the anti-apartheid hero’s condition would not affect one way or another US president Barack Obama’s planned visit to South Africa on Friday.
The global attention the world has given Mr Mandela’s deteriorating health has been graciously applauded by his family members to date, many of whom appreciated the numerous shows of support.
However, Mr Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe has asked in an interview with CNN for the family’s privacy to be respected.
“Other people want to lecture us on how we should behave, and what we should do. Really, it’s our dad, it’s the children’s grandfather.
“We’ve never had him in our life for the better part of our years. This is in a sense quality and sacred time for us, and I would expect the world to really back off and leave us alone,” she said.