Family at Mandela’s bedside
People of South Africa wait anxiously for updates on 94-year-old’s health
A mural of former South African president Nelson Mandela at Regina Mundi church in Soweto. Mr Mandela, who will be 95 on July 18th next, was admitted to hospital in Pretoria at 1.30am on Saturday with a recurrence of a lung infection that has landed him in hospital four times since December. Photograph: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
Family members of former South African president Nelson Mandela spent yesterday at his hospital bedside while a watching public waited anxiously for updates on the state of the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s health.
Mr Mandela, who will be 95 on July 18th next, was admitted to hospital in Pretoria at 1.30am on Saturday with a recurrence of a lung infection that has landed him in hospital four times since December.
A short statement released by the South African presidency on Saturday morning regarding Mr Mandela’s state of health described him as “stable” but in a serious condition.
Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said later in the day that doctors were doing everything they could to make Mr Mandela “better and comfortable”.
South Africa’s first democratic elected president has a long history of lung problems that date back to his time as a prisoner on Robben Island.
“What I am told by doctors is that he is breathing on his own and I think that is a positive sign,” Mr Maharaj said. “Madiba [Mr Mandela’s clan name] is a fighter and, at his age, as long as he is fighting he will be fine.”
Mr Mandela’s family members were seen coming and going from a military hospital in Pretoria where he is thought to be staying. His wife, Graca Machel, remains at his bedside.
His daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, who along with a sister, Zenani, is involved in a legal action to get control of their father’s companies, was also seen leaving the hospital on Saturday afternoon.
Outside Mr Mandela’s Johannesburg home, local and international media watched as dozens of well-wishers left flowers and cards at his front gate.
‘Let him go’
South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper ran with a frontpage headline: “It’s time to let him go.”
“We wish Madiba a speedy recovery, but I think what is important is that his family must release him,” long-time friend Andrew Mlangeni told the publication.
Since the initial statement on Saturday there has been no official word about Mr Mandela’s well-being, which has increased speculation. For some, no news is good news; for others, the lack of information is an ominous message in itself. At the time of going to press, the presidency had issued no further updates.
In April Mr Mandela spent nine days in hospital receiving treatment for a lung infection. In March he was admitted to hospital for a scheduled check-up and was discharged the following day.
Last December he underwent an operation to remove gallstones and also received treatment for a lung infection. He was discharged from hospital after 18 days.