JOHANNESBURG: Nelson Mandela remains in a critical condition in hospital, South African President Jacob Zuma said on Monday, stressing doctors were doing their best to make the anti-apartheid hero comfortable.
“Former-President Mandela remains in a critical condition in hospital. The doctors are doing everything possible to ensure his well-being and comfort,” Zuma said.
Zuma reported that the 94-year-old’s health had deteriorated over the weekend, after he visited the icon’s bedside on Sunday.
“Given the hour that we got to the hospital it was late, he was already asleep,” Zuma said.
“[We] saw him and then we had a bit of discussion with the doctors and his wife Graca Machel.”
Zuma declined to give details about the health of his predecessor, who was rushed to hospital 17 days ago with a recurring lung infection.
“I don’t think I’m in a position to give further details, I am not a doctor. That is what I informed the country and the world and that remains the case for now,” Zuma said.
Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, is due to celebrate his 95th birthday on July 18.
He has been hospitalized four times since December, mostly for the pulmonary condition that has plagued him since his time in an apartheid jail.
Zuma sought to assure the country that medics were now doing all they could to save his
“The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well-looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands,” he said, using the revered leader’s clan name.
Zuma appealed to South Africans and people worldwide to pray for Mandela, his family and the medics attending to him “during this difficult time.”
Flowers, cards, balloons and messages of support were left outside the gate of Mandela’s Pretoria hospital.
“Two weeks in hospital is really a long time for an old man. I’m worried, we are all worried,” said Mthandeni Mjwara in Mthatha, a rural town in the region where Mandela grew up.
“It’s quite sad to hear that his health is not improving, I was really hoping for good news.”
In Washington, the White House said its thoughts and prayers were with Mandela, as US President Barack Obama prepares to visit South Africa.
“We have seen the latest reports from the South African government that former president Mandela is in critical condition,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and the people of South Africa.”
Obama leaves Wednesday on a tour of Africa that will take him to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.
The possibility of a meeting between the first black presidents of both South Africa and the United States has been hotly anticipated for years. The White House has said it will defer to Mandela’s family regarding any meeting.