Pretoria — South Africans lit candles outside the hospital where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela lay tonight night as an official who had been briefed in detail on his condition reported the former president was on life support.
Considered the founding father of South Africa’s multiracial democracy, the 94-year-old Mandela has been hospitalised since June 8 for a recurring lung infection. Authorities have described his condition as critical since Sunday, and President Jacob Zuma said earlier today that Mandela’s condition remained unchanged, South Africa’s national news agency reported.
After visiting Mandela, Zuma cancelled his visit tomorrow to Mozambique where he was supposed to attend a summit on infrastructure investment, the presidency’s website said.
South African government spokesman Mac Maharaj told CNN that officials were unable to comment on reports that Mandela was on life support, citing doctor-patient confidentiality rules. In a statement issued late yesterday, the government said Mandela’s doctors “continue to do their best to ensure his recovery, well-being and comfort”.
As the nation remained on edge, police barricaded the street leading to the hospital’s main entrance. Well-wishers hung balloons, stuffed animals and messages of support along the wall, and crowds hovering nearby sang “Where is Mandela?”
“We need you!,” one sign read. “We love you tata, get well soon!” said another, referring to Mandela by the Xhosa word for father. Someone else left a stone upon which was written, “Sending you light and love.”
Several members of the family came out to collect some of those items today.
“He’s going to feel a lot better when he sees these signs,” said David Manaway, Mandela’s grandson-in-law. (CNN)