Nelson Mandela still critical in hospital, says Zuma

President Jacob Zuma says doctors are doing everything to ensure that Nelson Mandela is comfortable

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Former South African President Nelson Mandela remains in a critical condition in hospital, President Jacob Zuma says.

Mr Zuma said the doctors were doing everything they could to make the former leader comfortable, but he could not give any more medical details.

South Africa's first black president, 94, was taken to hospital in Pretoria earlier this month for the third time this year, with a lung infection.

A senior official said South Africans should not hold out "false hopes".

On Sunday, the presidency announced that Mr Mandela had become critical, after Mr Zuma visited him in hospital.

At the scene

Monday marks the 18th anniversary of one of Nelson Mandela's pivotal moments - the day he walked into a packed rugby stadium wearing the national team's Springbok jersey and in that single act united millions here, black and white. But there is none of the festive cheer that moment deserves - instead a dark and sombre mood prevails.

On the streets, South Africans say they are continuing to pray for Madiba's recovery, but in the same breath say "this time feels different" - a painful realisation perhaps that their icon is now in a difficult fight for his life. But many pray this is a fight he can win.

Mr Mandela is a man of great strength, who is capable of the unexpected. But as news spreads that his condition is critical, many South Africans will need a dose of that "Madiba magic" to see them through the tough road ahead.

Mr Zuma said on Monday he had found Mr Mandela asleep, but had spoken to his wife and medical teams.

"All of us in the country should accept the fact that Madiba [Nelson Mandela's clan name] is now old. As he ages, his health will... trouble him and I think what we need to do as a country is to pray for him."

Mac Maharaj, Mr Zuma's spokesman, told the BBC's Newshour on Sunday said this was a stressful time for the Mandela family.

"I think there is need to be sombre about the news. There is a need not to hold out false hopes but at the same time let's keep him in our thoughts and let's will him more strength," he said.

Nelson Mandela's daughter, Makaziwe, whom he had with his first wife Evelyn, asked in an interview with CNN on Saturday for the family's privacy to be respected.

"Other people want to lecture us on how we should behave, and what we should do," she said.

"Really, it's our dad, it's the children's grandfather. We've never had him in our life for the better part of our years. This is in a sense quality and sacred time for us, and I would expect the world to really back off and leave us alone."

A woman talks on a mobile phone as she walks behind a police cordon outside a Pretoria hospital where former South African President Nelson Mandela is being treated Concern is growing in South Africa for the health of Nelson Mandela who is critically ill in hospital.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela during the celebration of his 94th birthday in 2012 Mr Mandela, 94, returned to hospital earlier this month, with a lung infection.
Balloons and letters wishing former South African President Nelson Mandela well are displayed at the entrance of the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital on 24 June 2013 in Pretoria Many tributes have been laid outside the Pretoria hospital where Mr Mandela is being treated.
Men read a newspaper next to a stall in Soweto on 24 June 2013 South Africans have been told not to "hold out false hopes" about Mr Mandela.
Children's get-well wishes are taped to the wall outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where Nelson Mandela is being treated on 22 June 2013 Reality is now sinking in for South Africans, correspondents say.
Springbok Captain Francois Pienaar (R) receives the Rugby World Cup from President Nelson Mandela at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 24 June 1995. Monday also marks the anniversary of an iconic event 18 years ago when then President Mandela presented Springbok Captain Francois Pienaar (R) with the Rugby World Cup after South Africa beat New Zealand in the final at Ellis Park in Johannesburg - a highly symbolic gesture.

The ANC - the party of Mr Mandela and Mr Zuma - said it "noted with concern" the latest reports, and that it joined the president in calling "for us all to keep Madiba, his family and medical team in our thoughts and prayers during this trying time".

'Expert care'

The BBC's Karen Allen reports from outside the Pretoria hospital that the mood in the country is sombre, and reality is sinking in.

Karen Allen reports from outside the hospital in Pretoria where Nelson Mandela is being treated

It is not known what kind of condition precipitated the deterioration, she says.

There has been little information about his condition in recent days. On 13 June Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela's health continued to improve but that his condition remained serious.

Mr Mandela is revered for leading the fight against white minority rule in South Africa and then preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years. He left power after five years as president.

The former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner is believed to have suffered damage to his lungs while working in a prison quarry.

He contracted tuberculosis in the 1980s while being held in jail on the windswept Robben Island.

Mr Mandela retired from public life in 2004 and has rarely been seen at official events since.

Nelson Mandela: Key dates

  • 1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
  • 1944 Joins African National Congress
  • 1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped
  • 1962 Arrested, convicted of sabotage, sentenced to five years in prison
  • 1964 Charged again, sentenced to life
  • 1990 Freed from prison
  • 1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1994 Elected first black president
  • 1999 Steps down as leader

On Saturday, it emerged that the ambulance in which Mr Mandela was taken to hospital on 8 June broke down, meaning he had to be moved to another vehicle.

But Mr Zuma said he had been assured that "all care was taken to ensure his medical condition was not compromised".

"There were seven doctors in the convoy who were in full control of the situation throughout the period. He had expert medical care," he said.

Mr Zuma also denied reports that the former leader had suffered a cardiac arrest.

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