JOHANNESBURG: Nelson Mandela remains in a “stable but critical” condition, but “continues to respond to treatment”, the South African government said in its first update on his health since September.
“The health of the former president remains much the same,” according to a statement issued after President Jacob Zuma visited the anti-apartheid icon at his home Monday.
The 95-year-old was receiving intensive care at home after being discharged from hospital on September 1 after a nearly three-month stay for a lung infection.
The government has largely refused to give details about Mandela’s condition, citing the need for privacy, but said “he continues to recover”.
Mandela’s oldest grandson, Mandla Mandela, who visited the former statesman on Sunday, said he found him in a “good state”.
“He is still progressing steadily but very much under a critical condition,” Mandla Mandela told reporters.
Mandela’s former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela this week told a local newspaper that he remains “quite ill” and is unable to speak because of tubes being used to clear his lungs of liquid.
He is using facial expressions to communicate, Madikizela-Mandela added.
Illness dating back to jail time
The Nobel Peace Prize winner is under the care of 22 doctors. While his pneumonia has cleared, his lungs remain sensitive, she said, adding that it was “difficult for him”.
“He remains very sensitive to any germs, so he has to be kept literally sterile. The bedroom there is like an ICU [intensive care unit]ward,” she told the Sunday Times.
“He remains quite ill, but thank God the doctors were able to pull him through from that [last]infection.”
His lung problems date back to his time in jail when he was diagnosed with early stage tuberculosis.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in apartheid jails before becoming South Africa’s first black leader, has faced several health scares.
His most recent 86-day hospital stay was his longest since he walked free from prison in 1990.
Mandela has been in and out of hospital since last year with lung-related complications.
A globally admired figure for steering South Africa peacefully into democracy, Mandela’s health problems prompted outpourings of well wishes around the world.
South Africa’s presidency said Zuma had conveyed the well wishes of South Africans and of leaders who attended a recent Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka.
Later while inaugurating a multi-purpose centre that will run a permanent exhibition on the life and times of South Africa’s first black leader, Zuma expressed the hope that the country and the world “will continue to keep him in their thoughts and prayers”.
Zuma also announced that a statue of Mandela—known affectionately by his clan name ‘Tata Madiba’—to be erected at the Union Buildings, the seat of government in Pretoria, will be unveiled next month.
A former symbol of white domination, the Union Buildings now houses the democratic government.
“By mounting Tata Madiba’s statue at the Union Buildings we are cementing the Union Building’s place among those symbols that reflect the kind of inclusive society we seek to build,” said Zuma.
The Nelson Mandela Center of Memory opened on Monday is located within the same complex that houses the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, an upmarket suburb north of Johannesburg.
Zuma said the items in the centre form “an integral part of our nation’s heritage”.
“They are our nation’s treasures and they need to be preserved,” he added.
Authorities chose to formally launch the centre on November 18, which marks the day, 20 years ago, when a panel of political negotiators approved an interim constitution for South Africa and an electoral bill that would clear the way for the historic 27 April 1994 polls.
Two days earlier, on 16 November 1993, Mandela and the last apartheid-era president, FW de Klerk, had agreed on the basic points allowing for the country’s first democratic election. AFP