Concerns grow for Mandela as condition becomes critical
Nelson Mandela's health has deteriorated and he is now in critical condition, the South African government said yesterday.
The office of President Jacob Zuma said in a statement that he had visited the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader at a hospital last night and was informed by the medical team that Mr Mandela's condition had become critical in the past 24 hours.
"The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well-looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands," Mr Zuma said in the statement, using Mandela's clan name.
Mr Zuma also met Graca Machel, Mr Mandela's wife, at the hospital in Pretoria and discussed the former leader's condition, according to the statement.
Mr Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president after the end of apartheid in 1994, was hospitalised on June 8 for what the government said was a recurring lung infection.
Mr Zuma also discussed the government's acknowledgement that an ambulance carrying Mr Mandela to the hospital two weeks ago had engine trouble, requiring the former president to be transferred to another ambulance for his journey to the hospital.
"There were seven doctors in the convoy who were in full control of the situation throughout the period. He had expert medical care," Mr Zuma said.
"The fully equipped military ICU ambulance had a full complement of specialist medical staff, including intensive care specialists and ICU nurses. The doctors also dismissed the media reports that Madiba suffered cardiac arrest. There is no truth at all in that report."
Mr Zuma appealed to South Africans and the rest of the world to pray for Mr Mandela, his family and the medical team that is attending to him.
On April 29, state television broadcast footage of a visit by Mr Zuma and other leaders of the African National Congress to Mr Mandela's home.
Mr Zuma said at the time that Mr Mandela was in good shape, but the footage – the first public images of Mr Mandela in nearly a year – showed him silent and unresponsive, even when Mr Zuma tried to hold his hand.
Mr Mandela was jailed for 27 years under white racist rule and was released in 1990. He then played a leading role in steering the divided country from the apartheid era to democracy, becoming South Africa's first black president in all-race elections in 1994.
As a result of his sacrifice and peacemaking efforts, he is seen by many around the world as a symbol of reconciliation.
Ndaba Mandela, one of Mr Mandela's grandsons, thanked the many people around the world who have sent messages of support. "For us, as family, as long as he can still hear and understand what is said to him, and talk to us, we'll continue to celebrate him," he said.