Madiba’s final hours

2013-12-08 08:18

We’d been preparing a long time for the day that Nelson Mandela would be with us no more.

It came as no surprise after half a year of illness.

But despite the preparation, when the news was announced by President Jacob Zuma it felt like a punch in the gut.

The words ‘Nelson Mandela has died …’ are awkward, clumsy and difficult to say. They did not come easily in those late night hours.

Earlier this week there were hints that something was up, first with Mandela’s eldest daughter Makaziwe’s unusual comment that her father was putting up a courageous fight from his “deathbed” where “he is teaching us lessons; lessons in patience, in love, lessons of tolerance”.

On Tuesday night, Zuma learned of Mandela’s deteriorating condition and that his death was imminent.

On Wednesday, word came from his house in Houghton that his already critical condition had worsened. He was fading fast.

Mandela had not spoken a single word for months.

On Thursday night, he was entering the final moments of his life. His former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was there and preparing to stay overnight. Those in the house speak of an overwhelming sadness that engulfed it.

Family members were allowed into his room in pairs or in threes and allowed private moments with him.

» Read the full story in City Press newspaper today. Also in the paper: our beautiful tribute supplement

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