South Africans, others pray for Nelson Mandela
AS anxiety heightens following doubts over the actual state of health of ailing anti-apartheid icon, Dr. Nelson Mandela, South Africans have united to offer prayers for the continental and global political titan who was the country’s first black president.
“Nation prays for Madiba,” was the front-page headline in The Sowetan as the daily attempted to capture the zeitgeist of a nation.
“We love Madiba, we feel every inch of anxiety, stress and pain with the rest of his close and distant family. And like concerned loved ones, we want to know how he is doing.”
As Mandela underwent more medical tests yesterday, government officials in charge of releasing information about his heath have repeatedly declined to provide specifics about Mandela’s now three-day hospitalisation, calling on citizens to respect the beloved politician’s privacy.
But since Mandela represents more than a man to many in the nation of 50 million people and to the world at large, people are now querying the secrecy behind the details about his health.
Mandela is revered for being a leader of the struggle against racist white rule in South Africa and for preaching reconciliation once he emerged from prison in 1990 after 27 years behind bars. He won South Africa’s first truly democratic elections in 1994, serving one five-year term.
The Star had a front-page picture of a sand sculpture with a “get well soon” message inscribed next to a sand portrait of Mandela built on a beach in India.
Despite the mudslinging by the opposition aimed at the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the build-up to its key conference, political parties are joining in the chorus of prayers to wish Mandela well.
“When Mandela is admitted to hospital, all of us get affected because we love and care for him,” said the main opposition Democratic Alliance spokesman, Mmusi Maimane.
But there was also a level of resignation about Mandela’s fate – in contrast to the panic of previous health scares – and a sense that Mandela must now be left in peace.
“Dear South Africans, please let Nelson Mandela go, he is old now and deserves to rest,” @ComradeESETHU from Cape Town wrote on Twitter.
Another South African newspaper, The Sunday Times, quoted an unnamed person close to the Mandela family as saying: “He has not been talking … he is not looking good. It’s clear that something is troubling him.”
The government had explained that the former president would remain in hospital (for a third day) yesterday and receive further undisclosed tests.
Sonwabo Mbananga, a spokesman for the nation’s Ministry of Defence, which is responsible for the 94-year-old’s health care, said he was comfortable and there is “no immediate danger to him at this stage.”
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula visited Mandela earlier yesterday at the country’s leading military hospital in Pretoria and found him “in good spirits.”
“He is comfortable, he continues to receive treatment which… (is) routine and that should be expected of a person of his senior age,” Mbananga told Agence France Presse (AFP).
The explanation came after a media report indicated that Mandela had stopped speaking following deterioration in his condition.
Mandela was airlifted to the One Military Hospital in Pretoria from his home village of Qunu in southeast of the country on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the presidency said Mandela would take additional tests yesterday, but officials have kept their silence on the procedures involved and have not given specifics about his condition.
It was unclear if he would spend a third night in hospital.
“That decision is still in the hands of the doctors…. They are saying they are doing further tests,” presidential spokesman, Mac Maharaj, told AFP.
Mandela was said to be very comfortable following a visit to the hospital by President Jacob Zuma on Sunday.
But it is not the first health scare for the nonagenarian, who in February spent a night in hospital for a minor exploratory procedure to probe persistent abdominal pain.
In January 2011, Mandela had the country on edge when he was admitted for two nights for an acute respiratory infection.
He was discharged in a stable condition for home-based care and intense medical monitoring.
Madiba, as he is affectionately known by South Africans, retains a prominent place in the national psyche, despite leaving office more than a decade ago – a lifetime in the quick-moving politics of the born-again nation.
Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after 27 years of incarceration.
He had retired to his rural childhood village since leaving office.
However, a South African military plane had crashed last Wednesday after disappearing en route from a Pretoria air base to Mthatha, the nearest airport to Mandela’s home in Qunu village.
There have been persistent rumours that the aircraft was carrying medical personnel or medical supplies for Mandela.
His last public appearance was at the final match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which South Africa hosted, where he toured the stadium on a golf cart with wife, Graca Machel