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Nelson Mandela remains in a 'critical' condition


South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela is in a critical condition in hospital, South Africa's presidency announced on Sunday. The anti-apartheid hero was admitted to hospital June 8 for a recurrent lung infection.


Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s condition deteriorated to “critical” on Sunday, the government said, more than two weeks after the beloved anti-apartheid leader was admitted to hospital with a lung infection.

The worsening of his condition has distressed South Africa’s 53 million people, for whom Mandela remains the architect of a peaceful transition to democracy in 1994 after three centuries of white domination.

President Jacob Zuma and the deputy leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Cyril Ramaphosa, visited Mandela in his Pretoria hospital on Sunday, where doctors said his condition had gone downhill in the last 24 hours.

“The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well looked after and is comfortable,” a government statement said, referring to him by his clan name.

‘South Africans finally realise’

FRANCE 24 correspondent Ayesha Ismail said from Cape Town early on Monday that the presidency’s use of the word ‘critical’ had “finally made South Africans realise that Mandela is really not well”.

South Africans rushed to social media sites to show their support for Mandela on Sunday, Ismail said, but unlike two weeks ago, when the 94-year-old was hospitalised with a recurring lung infection, “the tone of people’s messages had changed”.

“Many people say they fear the worst; say they can’t sleep, but many others are saying maybe it’s now time to let him go,” Ismail reported.

Until Sunday, official communiqués had described his condition as “serious but stable” although comments last week from Mandela family members and his presidential successor, Thabo Mbeki, suggested he was on the mend.

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.

During his retirement, he has divided his time between his home in the wealthy Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, and Qunu, the village in the impoverished Eastern Cape province where he grew up.

‘The touch is there’

The public’s last glimpse of him was a brief clip aired by state television in April during a visit to his home by Zuma and other senior ANC officials.

At the time, ANC assured the public Mandela was “in good shape” although the footage showed a thin and frail old man sitting expressionless in an armchair.

Sunday's announcement came after unconfirmed media reports that Mandela's condition was worse than what authorities and relatives had been indicating.

US news channel CBS had at the weekend given details of failing organs and said that Mandela was "unresponsive" and "has not opened his eyes for days". It claimed Mandela's liver and kidneys were operating at 50% of their capacity.

Authorities refused to comment on the speculation.

But his daughter Makaziwe Mandela rubbished those claims, telling CNN earlier Sunday that “he still opens his eyes... the touch is there”.

Obama en route

In Washington, President Barack Obama’s National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said “our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and the people of South Africa”.

Obama is scheduled to visit South Africa with his family later this week. On Friday, a White House adviser said the president would defer to the Mandela family’s wishes on any contact with the former South African leader.

Despite the widespread adulation for Mandela, he is not without detractors at home and in the rest of Africa where some feel that in the dying days of apartheid he made too many concessions to whites, who make up just 10 percent of the population.

After more than 10 years of affirmative action policies aimed at redressing the balance, South Africa remains one of the world’s most unequal societies, with whites still controlling much of the economy and the average white household earning six times more than a black one.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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