NELSON Mandela's wife has described how the former president's "sparkle" is gradually fading, as South African officials disclosed that he is suffering from a recurring lung infection.
The authorities added that Mr Mandela (94) was "responding to treatment" in a military hospital in Pretoria where he has spent three nights.
Graca Machel, who Mr Mandela married on his 80th birthday in 1998, told of her pain at having to watch her husband "ageing" before her eyes. "I mean, this spirit and this sparkle, you see that somehow it's fading," she said on Monday.
"To see him ageing, it's something also which pains you. You understand and you know it has to happen," she said
Graca Machel, the widow of a former president of Mozambique, is Mr Mandela's third wife. He divorced his second wife, Winnie, in 1992, while his first wife, Evelyn, died in 2004.
Ndileka Mandela, a granddaughter, said that Mr Mandela seemed to have accepted his condition. "I think he takes it in his stride, he has come to accept that it's part of growing old, and it's part of humanity as such," she said.
"At some point you will be dependent on someone else – he has come to embrace it."
Security is tight at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria where the government says Mr Mandela (pictured) is "comfortable" and not in any immediate danger. Officials have declined to say when he might be released. His condition was considered sufficiently serious to fly him 600 miles from his home in Qunu to the capital on Saturday.
Mr Mandela has been prone to lung infections since he caught tuberculosis at Polls- moor prison in Cape Town in 1988. (© Daily Telegraph, London)