Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu asked journalists in Bloemfontein today what more the country wanted from president Nelson Mandela.
“What more do we want from him? We want him to remain forever, but you know... anything can happen,” Tutu said as the statesman was being treated in the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.
Tutu was answering questions about Mandela during the opening of the International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Justice at the University of Free State.
Tutu confirmed he saw Mandela last week, and remarked that for a 92-year-old he was “amazing”. “At 92 years he cannot run a marathon now.”
Tutu said most of Mandela’s contemporaries were gone and he thought Mandela must be alone.
Mandela had done a fantastic job and the country should thank God for him, he said.
Mandela was admitted to hospital yesterday for what the Nelson Mandela Foundation called “routine tests”.
By 2.30pm today there had been no word on the 92-year-old statesman’s condition.
The hospital was not planning to comment either.
President Jacob Zuma wished Mandela well. “He is comfortable and is well looked after by a good team of medical specialists,” the presidency said.
“We urge the media to afford him the dignity and respect that he is entitled to as the country’s founding democratic president, as a national hero and also as a citizen of the republic.
“The media should balance the quest for stories with acting within the bounds of human decency and ensuring the respect for human dignity.
“The doctors also need to be allowed to do their work without undue pressure.”
Zuma was being kept abreast of developments while attending the World Economic Forum yearly meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu, whose department was responsible for the healthcare of current and former presidents, was keeping Zuma up to date.
Zuma asked that Mandela’s family be given the space they needed to support him in privacy and dignity.
Various family members and politicians visited the hospital today.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela wiped her face and blew her nose as she left the hospital at about 1.30pm.
She was accompanied by Mandela’s eldest grandson, chief Mandla Mandela, and other family members.
Anti-apartheid activist Albertina Sisulu earlier entered the hospital in a wheelchair and was later seen driving out. She smiled and waved at photographers.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, Mandela’s personal assistant Zelda la Grange, and the daughter of Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, and senior military officials were also at the hospital.
The large contingent of media were barred from entering the hospital premises.
Those who had forgotten umbrellas had to shield themselves with jackets and newspapers when it started raining just after 2pm.
Earlier three journalists from a Chinese news agency managed to sneak past security and get into the hospital before having their cameras confiscated by police. The cameras were later returned.
Meanwhile, police cordoned off the entrance to Mandela’s house in Houghton, north of Johannesburg.
Colonel Vish Naidoo said: “The presidential protection unit has cordoned off a small section in front of his house.”
He said this was being done as a precaution in case people wanted to visit Mandela’s home to pay homage.
The Star newspaper reported today that Mandela was seen by Professor Michael Plit, a specialist pulmonologist (who deals with diseases of the respiratory system).
“He has been admitted for investigation,” Plit was quoted as saying.
He would not say what Mandela’s condition was or if he had examined him, except to say he had seen him yesterday.
The newspaper described him as Mandela’s personal physician.
On the National Asthma Education Programme website, Plit describes his medical interests as obstructive lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu issued a statement calling for the media to stop speculating about Mandela’s health and allow the family privacy.
“We appeal, particularly to the media fraternity to refrain from making unfounded and unwarranted speculation in relation to Madiba’s health,” he said.
“In the same vein we also request the media, in particular, to give Madiba’s family and the hospital the necessary privacy.”
He said South Africans would be informed of any change, including if Mandela were to be discharged from hospital.
The ANC Youth League sent its best wishes.
“Nelson Mandela remains our greatest inspiration in everything we do and we confident (sic) that he will stay strong.
“The message from the ANC Youth League is best wishes Tat’u Madiba. The youth of the ANC, South Africa and the entire world love you, President Nelson Mandela,” a league statement read.
The Star reported that a Facebook post by Mandela’s granddaughter, Zoleka Mandela, read: “I really hate to see you this way. It kills me each time. Know that I’m here for you as I believe you have always been there for me.
“You are never alone in this. We are all with you each and every step of the way. All you need to do is remember that you have us at your back (sic) and call.
“I love you. You already know this. Spending my next few days with you just so I know that you’ll be ok! I’m saddened....”
The foundation issued a brief statement just after 4pm yesterday reading: “We can confirm that Mr Mandela is at Milpark Hospital undergoing routine tests.
“He is in no danger and is in good spirits.”
There had been no further word from the foundation by 2.30pm today.