Nelson Mandela’s health has deteriorated and he is now in critical condition, the South African government said in a statement.
The office of President Jacob Zuma said in a statement that he had visited the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader at a hospital on Sunday evening and was informed by the medical team that Mandela’s condition had become critical in the past 24 hours.
“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,” President Zuma said in the statement, using Mandela’s clan name.
“The doctors also dismissed the media reports that Madiba suffered cardiac arrest. There is no truth at all in that report,” he said..
Zuma also met Graca Machel, Mandela’s wife, at the hospital and discussed the former leader’s condition, according to the statement.
Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president after the end of apartheid in 1994, was hospitalized on June 8 for what the government said was a recurring lung infection.
Zuma appealed to South Africans and the rest of the world to pray for Mandela, his family and the medical team that is attending to him.
Mandela was jailed for 27 years under white racist rule and was released in 1990. He then played a leading role in steering the divided country from the apartheid era to democracy, becoming South Africa’s first black president in all-race elections in 1994.
Mandela developed tuberculosis during the 27 years he spent in prison for opposing white minority rule and has had chronic lung problems. His current hospital stay is the fourth since December.
As a result of his sacrifice and peacemaking efforts, he is seen by many around the world as a symbol of reconciliation.
The announcement came after unconfirmed media reports that Mandela’s condition was worse than what authorities and relatives had been indicating.
US news channel CBS had at the weekend given details of failing organs and said that Mandela was “unresponsive” and “has not opened his eyes for days”. It claimed Mandela’s liver and kidneys were operating at 50 per cent of their capacity.
But his eldest daughter Makaziwe Mandela rubbished those claims telling CNN that “he stll opens his eyes, …the touch is there”.
She also dismissed suggestions that the family should let the ailing global icon go, saying it was un-African.
“He hasn’t said we should release him and we haven’t come to the end yet, it’s only God who knows the end,” she told CNN.
President Zuma also discussed the government’s acknowledgement a day earlier that an ambulance carrying Mandela to the hospital two weeks ago had engine trouble, requiring the former president to be transferred to another ambulance for his journey to the hospital.
“There were seven doctors in the convoy who were in full control of the situation throughout the period. He had expert medical care,” President Zuma said. “The fully equipped military ICU ambulance had a full complement of specialist medical staff including intensive care specialists and ICU nurses.
President Zuma appealed to South Africans and the rest of the world to pray for Mandela, his family and the medical team that is attending to him.
On April 29, state television broadcast footage of a visit by President Zuma and other leaders of the African National Congress to Mandela’s home. President Zuma said at the time that Mandela was in good shape, but the footage – the first public images of Mandela in nearly a year – showed him silent and unresponsive, even when Zuma tried to hold his hand.