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Mandela is at peace...we want 'smooth transition' - family

NELSON MANDELA, the former South African president now critically ill in hospital with a lung infection, is "at peace" and his family are praying for a "smooth transition", his daughter Makaziwe said.

Mrs Mandela (59), the sole surviving child from his first marriage to Evelyn, said the family were enjoying "quality and sacred moments" with Mr Mandela, who led South Africa out of apartheid into democratic elections in 1994.

"Every day we take one day at a time and pray to the good Lord," Mrs Mandela said.

"All I pray for as a daughter is that the transition is smooth. He is at peace with himself. He has given so much to the world. I believe he is at peace."

She also appealed to the media to "back off". "This is, in a sense, quality and sacred time for us, and I would expect the world to really back off and leave us alone," she said.

On Sunday, President Jacob Zuma visited Mr Mandela at the Pretoria hospital where he has been for the past two weeks and was told that his condition is "critical" for the first time since his admission. Last week, it was suggested Mr Mandela might be recovering but such hopes are now fading.

Speculation is growing about whether US President Barack Obama, who is due to visit South Africa on Friday, will change his plans.