| 10.7°C Dublin

Mandela peaceful but still very ill, says former wife

South Africa's former president, Nelson Mandela, remains "quite ill" and is unable to speak because of tubes that are keeping his lungs clear of fluid, though he is relaxed, his former wife told a South African newspaper.

"He remains very sensitive to any germs, so he has to be kept literally sterile. The bedroom there (in his suburban Johannesburg home) is like an ICU ward," Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told the Sunday Independent.

"He is 95 years old and it is difficult for him, because of all the tubes that are in his mouth to clear the (fluid from his) lungs and prevent an infection recurring." Because of those tubes, she said, he communicates through his face.

"But the doctors have told us they hope he will be able to recover his voice," she said, adding that he is being treated by 22 doctors at his home.


Mandela's former wife shot down reports that the former anti-apartheid leader was on life support.

"I have heard this nonsense that he is on life support. He is not," she told the newspaper. When asked if he was peaceful, she said, "Very. When he is very relaxed, he is fine," adding that it helps he is at his home, an environment that he recognises.

Mandela has been in intensive medical care at his Johannesburg home since being discharged on September 1 after three months in a hospital for a recurring lung infection.

Madikizela-Mandela's comments come days before the release of the film based on Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom and which stars British actor Idris Elba. Madikizela-Mandela (77) published a book of her prison diaries earlier this year entitled 491 Days: Prisoner number 1323/69.