Allow Mandela to age with dignity - Zuma

2011-02-10 22:07

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma urged South Africans Thursday to let Nelson Mandela grow old with dignity on the eve of the 21st anniversary of his release from jail.

Delivering his annual State of the Nation address, Zuma said Mandela was receiving good medical care after his recent hospital stay for an acute respiratory infection and should be allowed to recover in privacy.

"We need to accept the reality that President Mandela, who is loved by all of us, young and old, men and women, black and white, is not young anymore," Zuma said.

"He will, from time to time, visit medical facilities for checkups, which is normal for a person of his age. We should allow him to do so with dignity, and give the family and the medical team the space to look after him, on our behalf, in privacy."

Mandela's grandson Mandla, a traditional chief, member of parliament and head of the family, said before the president's speech that his grandfather was doing well.

"My grandfather is doing all right," he said.

"We have as a family welcomed people's contribution in ensuring that my grandfather gets better."

Free man

Dressed for the opening of parliament in traditional Xhosa attire with a lion's skin over one shoulder, Mandela said the family left medical issues to his grandfather's doctors but welcomed prayers from South Africans and the international community.

"We continue to hope that he gains his strength and he continues to enjoy 21 years of his freedom as a free man living in South Africa unconditionally."

Mandela was released from 27 years in prison on February 11 1990, ushering in an inclusive democracy four years later after decades of white-minority rule.

The Mandela family plans to mark the anniversary at home with Madiba whose health caused a wave of concern last month when he was admitted to Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital for a two-day stay.

"We usually gather at home and spend that time with the family and my grandfather to celebrate his 21 years of him being a free man and a free citizen of South Africa," Mandela said.

"So we'll probably mostly be gathered at home tomorrow."

The 92-year-old Nobel peace prize winner, who stepped down after serving just one five-year term as president, was likely to watch Zuma deliver speech on television in Johannesburg, his grandson said earlier in the day.

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