Mandela’s condition steadily improving, Zuma says

Daughter says former president has made ‘dramatic progress’ in recent days

Well-wishers light candles yesterday in front of former South African president Nelson Mandela’s home in Houghton, Johannesburg. Photograph: Reuters/Mujahid Safodien

Well-wishers light candles yesterday in front of former South African president Nelson Mandela’s home in Houghton, Johannesburg. Photograph: Reuters/Mujahid Safodien

Fri, Jul 19, 2013, 01:00

The condition of Nelson Mandela, who has spent more than 40 days in hospital receiving treatment for a recurring lung infection, is “steadily improving”, South Africa’s presidency said yesterday on the former president’s 95th birthday.

South Africans were given the news by President Jacob Zuma after he visited Mr Mandela and talked to his doctors at the Pretoria hospital where the former president is being treated. “He continues to respond positively to treatment and we are encouraged by that progress being made,” Mr Zuma said in a statement released by his office.

“When I visited him today, I found him really stable and I was able to say ‘happy birthday’ and he was able to smile.”

Mr Mandela’s poor health had cast a shadow over South African society as people struggled with the apparent entry of the country’s first democratically elected president into the final phase of his life.

Mr Mandela was rushed to Pretoria’s Mediclinic hospital in the early hours of June 8th last. Until now his condition has been described by doctors as critical but stable.

Welcome surprise
The upturn in his health has come as a welcome surprise to many people, given that Mr Mandela was put on life support a few weeks ago.

News of Mr Mandela’s improved condition was also communicated by his daughter Zindzi, who said her father had made “dramatic progress” over the past few days.

“I visited him on Tuesday and he was watching television with headphones,” she said, “He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand . . . He responds with his eyes and his hand. I should think he will be going home anytime soon.”

Mr Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa were also among a group of people who went to visit him yesterday.

While much of the hospital is a no-go area for visitors, thousands stood outside its entrance singing songs or leaving cards and flowers.

Further afield, hundreds of thousands of people also undertook good deeds yesterday in their communities to celebrate Mr Mandela’s legacy.

Global campaign
July 18th is now officially known as Mandela Day, a United Nations-backed global campaign that calls on people to spend 67 minutes – Mr Mandela spent 67 years serving the public – helping those less fortunate than themselves.

Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko and her colleagues helped out at the Othandweni Family Centre in Soweto, while members of the government also undertook various activities, from painting schools to handing out food parcels.