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Africa

Mandela ‘much better’, says President Zuma

© FRANCE 24/ Charlotte Boitiaux

Video by Catherine NORRIS TRENT

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-06-28

The office of South African President Jacob Zuma said Thursday that the health of former leader Nelson Mandela had improved overnight. Earlier, Mandela’s granddaughter told reporters that he was in a “very critical but stable” condition.

Nelson Mandela’s health has improved overnight though the anti-apartheid hero remains in a critical condition, the office of South African President Jacob Zuma said Thursday.

"He is much better today than he was when I saw him last night. The medical team continues to do a sterling job," Zuma said in a statement.

He added that although Mandela’s condition remains critical, it is now “stable”,

The President’s comments come after Mandela’s granddaughter Ndileka Mandela told reporters earlier on Thursday that the former South African president is in a “very critical but stable” condition. "Anything is imminent," she added. Mandela was put on life support on Wednesday.

ANC SUPPORTERS GATHER TO SING
ANC supporters have gathered to sing outside the hospital. On their jumpers: "Vote ANC in 2014." Photo: Charlotte Boitiaux/ FRANCE 24.

Ndileka emerged from the hospital with other family members to accept bouquets of flowers from members of the public, FRANCE 24’s Charlotte Boitiaux reported. She returned to Mandela’s bedside in tears, she said.

Mandela’s eldest daughter Makaziwe said Mandela was still responding to touch. “I won’t lie, it doesn’t look good. But as I say, if we speak to him, he responds and tries to open his eyes. He’s still there. He might be waning off, but he’s still there,” she told SABC radio after visiting him in hospital on Thursday.

Family elder Napilisi Mandela, who had been at Mandela’s bedside on Wednesday evening, told AFP that he was using machines to breathe. “It is bad, but what can we do,” he said.

Zuma cancels plans

President Zuma late Wednesday abruptly cancelled a trip to neighbouring Mozambique after he visited Mandela, who has been in critical condition for several days.

It is the first time Zuma has scrapped a public engagement since Mandela was hospitalised on June 8 with a recurring lung infection.

"President Zuma was briefed by the doctors who are still doing everything they can to ensure his well-being," a statement from the presidency said.

Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba had also visited the Mediclinic Heart Hospital to pray with his wife Graca Machel "at this hard time of watching and waiting".

"Grant Madiba eternal healing and relief from pain and suffering," the prayer said, using Mandela's clan name by which he is fondly known. "Grant him, we pray...a peaceful, perfect, end."

World media crowd in

Outside the hospital emotional crowds have been holding vigils, offering their own prayers and remembering the life of one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.

Supporters sang hymns for the father of South African democracy and the architect of remarkable transition from almost half a century of white minority rule to landmark multiracial elections.

Journalists from around the world flocked to the site as news that Mandela was on life support emerged.

FRANCE 24’s Charlotte Boitiaux said that by midday on Thursday, the media presence outside the hospital had become overwhelming. “Rumours keep going round that he has already died,” she said. “There are more journalists than ever. Vans are parked all over the place, even on the pavement”.

There was also a heavy police presence at the scene, she added.

‘It only seems impossible until it's done’

With his life seemingly slipping away, messages of support for the former president blanketed a wall outside the hospital, including a poster bearing one of his most memorable quotes: "It only seems impossible until it's done".

Mandela's lung troubles date from his 27 years locked up on the notorious Robben Island and in other apartheid prisons.

Elders from Mandela's Thembu clan visited the country's first black president as his "Rainbow Nation" comes to terms with the increasing frailty of the man who defeated decades of racist white minority rule to become the country's first black president.

Since stepping down after one term as president, Mandela has played little role in the public or political life of the continent’s biggest and most important economy.

His last public appearance was waving to fans from the back of a golf cart before the final of the soccer World Cup in Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium in July 2010.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-06-27

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