Flicker of hope for Mandela

2013-06-29 18:26
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Pretoria - Former president Nelson Mandela remained in a critical condition on Saturday, but government hinted at renewed optimism for Madiba, whom US President Barack Obama hailed as a personal hero.

Speaking after talks with Obama, President Jacob Zuma said Mandela's condition remained unchanged overnight, but he hoped that Madiba may recover sufficiently to return home.

"We're hoping that it [Mandela's health] is going to improve," Zuma said at a press briefing in Pretoria on Saturday.

"I think with all the prayers and good wishes that are being made, certainly it would do something...we hope very soon he will be out of hospital."

Hours later, the speaker of Parliament, Max Sisulu, arrived at the Medi-Clinic Heart hospital in Pretoria and spoke to reporters.

"We are pleased with the progress Madiba is making," he said.

Sisulu expressed his affection for Mandela amid a crowd of well-wishers gathered outside the hospital gates.

"We love him dearly and don't want to let him go."

Obama refrained from visiting the hospital, but met privately with some relatives of the revered leader including two daughters and several grandchildren and spoke by telephone with Mandela's wife Graça Machel.


Many continued on Saturday to place flowers, cards and candles at the gates of the hospital where Mandela has been fighting for his life for three weeks.

Medical student Clarence Chauke paused to show his support and said he believed the recovery many hoped for had become impossible.

"It will be very heavy if he goes, the country will come to a halt, but if an old man becomes this sick for this long, then usually it is the end of it."

"We want him to stay with us because we love him very much, but I think it is time," said the University of Pretoria student.

Vicky Pollock brought her two small daughters to wish Mandela well.

"If he passes, we will remember him as a peaceful and honourable man," she said.

Holding her mother's hand and a dozen orange roses, five-year-old Candice lisped that the flowers were "for Nelson Mandela".

Chinese tourist Yan Lin stopped to look at the scene, which seemed a snapshot Mandela evoked in his inauguration speech in 1994, and lauded the former President for his victory over racial oppression.

"I wish Mandela a quick recovery. He is a good man who contributed to the liberation of South Africans, particularly black people," he said.

"This is a historical time for human history. Mandela made sure that people had a better life regardless of their race."

Dineo Malungana, 37, noted that the whole world shared South Africa's concern for its liberation hero.

"I would love to say to Madiba you have done your best and you are part of us."

"I have been going through the messages, they are very touching. It shows that he is a powerful man. These messages are from all over the world.

"If he passes, he would still be remembered forever as part of the South African history."

Prayers, songs

As a Pentecostal choir from Nelspruit sang, Pretoria housewife Petra Nel brought roses from her garden to place at the gate.

"He built so many bridges that we must not break down," she said.

Amid the tributes, some were doing a brisk trade outside the hospital.

Among them was ANC member and businessman Godfrey Mooketsi, who was selling lengths of printed African cloth with Mandela's face on it.

He said he had sold 200 of these since Friday.

"I made thousands," he said before wishing Mandela well.

"I think he's going to make it to his birthday on 18 July. I pray for that."

Read more on:    anc  |  nelson mandela  |  jacob zuma  |  barack obama  |  graca machel  |  max sisulu  |  obama in africa

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