Zuma cancels Mozambique trip, Mandela chapel prepared

2013-06-27 06:08

President Jacob Zuma has cancelled his scheduled state visit to Mozambique after visiting former president Nelson Mandela in hospital last night, amid reports that the ailing 94-year-old was on life support.

“Yes, he is using machines to breathe,” elder in the Mandela family Napilisi Mandela reportedly told AFP. “It is bad, but what can we do.”

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj refused to comment on this claim, saying it would infringe on doctor-patient privacy.

Meanwhile, the chapel at 1 Military Hospital where Mandela’s body is expected to be taken after his death, before he is set to lie in state at the Union Buildings, has been prepared, reports Erika Gibson.

In a statement issued by the Presidency shortly after Zuma had spent about half an hour inside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria where Madiba is being treated for a recurring lung infection, Zuma again expressed his and government’s gratitude to all South Africans for their support to Mandela’s family.

Zuma was due to attend an SADC summit on infrastructure investment in Maputo.

The Presidency said doctors had assured Zuma that they were doing everything they could to ensure Mandela’s well-being.

It was Zuma’s third visit to the hospital in less than two weeks and his cancellation of today’s visit to Mozambique echoes official statements that Mandela’s health had deteriorated to a critical state.

According to the Presidency, Mandela’s health condition has been unchanged since he took a turn for the worse at the weekend.

Earlier in the day, Mandela’s family visited him twice at the hospital.

Family members included his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, his current wife, Graca Machel, his daughters, Zindzi and Makaziwe, grandchildren Ndaba, Zondwa, Tukwini and Ndileka, and Zondwa’s wife, Lindo Zici.

Jozina Machel, Graca’s daughter, and Mandela’s former physician, Lieutenant General Veejay Ramlakan, were also seen at the hospital.

The Presidency said Zuma had been briefed by Mandela’s doctors and that his condition remained unchanged.

Earlier yesterday a church choir and a group of pre-schoolers sang church songs and the national anthem outside the hospital where the police presence had increased.

About 15 preschoolers from the Thand’ Uxolo Day Care Centre in Katlehong’s Mandela informal settlement, painted a huge banner using their handprints to wish Mandela a speedy recovery.

The preschoolers then recited the national anthem and a special poem they wrote, which included words of encouragement that Mandela must “hold on” to life.

Later in the evening South Africans flocked the hospital and sang hymns and struggle songs, during a vigil.

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