Mandela: ‘If it’s his time to go, let him rest’

2013-06-24 15:23

Some South Africans have adopted a mood of sombre resignation to the inevitability of saying goodbye to former president Nelson Mandela after the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader’s condition in hospital deteriorated to critical.

Mandela’s deterioration this weekend, two weeks after being admitted in a serious but stable condition with a lung infection, has caused a perceptible switch in mood from prayers for recovery to preparations for a fond farewell.

“If it’s his time to go, he can go. I wish God can look after him,” said nurse Petunia Mafuyeka, as she headed to work in Johannesburg.

“We will miss him very much. He fought for us to give us freedom. We will remember him every day. When he goes, I will cry.”

There was some concern among members of the public about doctors trying to prolong the life of South Africa’s first black president, one of the 20th Century’s most influential figures.

“I’m worried that they’re keeping him alive. I feel they should let him go,” said Doris Lekalakala, a claims manager. “The man is old. Let nature take its course. He must just rest.”

His passing is expected to have little political impact.

Madiba’s latest hospitalisation – his fourth in six months – has reinforced a realisation that the father of the post-apartheid Rainbow Nation will not be around forever.

President Jacob Zuma, who visited Mandela late last night with ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, reflected the national mood when he told a news conference that Mandela remained critical.

“All of us in the country must accept that Madiba is now old. As he ages, his health will trouble him,” Zuma said, declining to give specific details about Mandela’s medical condition or other information from his hospital visit.

“Given the hour, he was already asleep. We saw him, looked at him and then we had a bit of a discussion with the doctors and his wife, Graça Machel,” Zuma said.

“I don’t think I’m in a position to give further details. I’m not a doctor.”

US President Barack Obama is due to visit South Africa this week as part of a three-country Africa tour but Zuma said Mandela’s worsening state of health should not affect the trip.

“Nothing is going to stop the visit because Madiba is sick,” Zuma said.

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