Mandela's fate now 'in hands of the Almighty'
Hundreds of well-wishers gather outside hospital in Pretoria n Family remain upbeat and say Madiba is 'trying to open eyes'
Nelson Mandela's condition has "improved" after a critical 24 hours, the South African government claimed yesterday, as the former president's daughter said that he was responding to touch and trying to open his eyes.
However, his family admitted that the icon's fate is now "in the hands of the Almighty".
On the morning of his 20th day in intensive care, South Africans feared that Mr Mandela's life hung by a thread.
President Jacob Zuma decided that he could not risk attending a regional summit in Mozambique, even though the neighbouring country is only 45 minutes away by plane.
He cancelled his departure after visiting Mr Mandela (94) at 10pm on Wednesday. Yesterday, Mr Zuma returned to the former president's bedside at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria. Afterwards, Mr Zuma issued a relatively upbeat statement, saying: "He is much better today than he was when I saw him last night. The medical team continues to do a sterling job."
The government added that Mr Mandela's "condition has improved during the course of the night. He remains critical but is now stable".
Throughout the day, hundreds of well-wishers gathered outside the hospital, leaving cards and flowers, or singing their support. "We are enjoying the freedom he suffered for," said Ridgeway Mokotedi (62). "He sacrificed all for us to be free."
Like many of those who gathered, Mr Mokotedi was sorrowfully realistic about the former president's chances. "His time is coming. You can't live for ever," he said.
Mr Mandela is thought to be depending on a ventilator and a dialysis machine. If so, that raises the question of whether he has any chance of recovery and, most sensitively, for how long his life will be prolonged.
Makaziwe Mandela (pictured), the only surviving child of Mr Mandela's first marriage, told state television that her father "doesn't look good" and "anything is imminent".
But she added that he was still capable of flickers of recognition when loved ones visited.
Perhaps alluding to a decision over whether to prolong his life, Mrs Mandela said: "I think that for us, as his children and grandchildren, we still have this hope because you know when you talk to him, he will flutter and try to open his eyes; when you touch him, he still responds.
"And I think for us, as his progeny, as long as Tata (father) is still responding when we talk to him, when we touch him, I think that gives us hope."
Mandla Mandela, the oldest grandson of the former president, said that the family still prayed for a recovery.
"It's all in the hands of the Almighty – we are all hoping for his recovery but we will continue to support him with prayer," he said.
He declined to say whether his grandfather was being kept alive artificially.
"We have been informed that he is in a critical condition. We are very grateful as a family to the doctors that have continuously pledged their support to my grandfather," he said. "We continue to pray that he may be given the best support possible. I want the medical support to continue as long as it is helpful."
Some South Africans urged Mr Mandela's family to allow nature to take its course. Gladys Leepile (83) said: "They are supporting his life and they must let him go. He's done his work." (© Daily Telegraph, London)