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Mandela Marks Two Months in the Hospital

Thursday, 08 August 2013 07:22 AM

PRETORIA, South Africa — Critically ill former South African president Nelson Mandela marked two months in the hospital Thursday, as his compatriots extended their national vigil.

The anti-apartheid hero was rushed to the Pretoria Mediclinic Heart Hospital on June 8 with a recurring lung infection. His condition is still said to be "critical but stable."

But the last two months have seen a series of scares for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and for the country where he is considered a living saint.

On Thursday a steady stream of pedestrians passed the hospital gates, which have been plastered with posters, hand-painted signs and notes wishing the 95-year-old well.

Nearby a line of white satellite vans, some parked there for 62 days — since Mandela fell ill  — are stationed on the road. A white police truck guarded the entrance, while police officers continued to search cars entering and leaving the hospital.

"The country is a little bit quiet because he is still alive," said Elizabeth Thembo, a 63-year-old cleaner wearing a blue smock walking outside the hospital. "God must help him."

On the eve of the sorrow-tinged anniversary church leaders led prayers in front of the hospital, urging South Africans to rally together.

"God is using Madiba, and his extended illness, to present to us a great challenge to unite behind the values that he represents," Pretoria bishop Joe Seoka said, using Mandela's clan name.

Early in his stay family testimony and court documents gave an indication of the seriousness of his condition. He was described as being in a "vegetative state" and depending on life support to survive.

On June 23, the presidency announced: "The former president's condition had become critical over the past 24 hours," as President Jacob Zuma canceled a foreign trip.

But since then friends and family members reported the peace icon's health was improving.

Mandela's 95th birthday on July 18 saw the family gathered at his bedside for a celebration.

Across the country there was an outpouring of charitable deeds, with many people offering 67 minutes of service for the 67 years he was in public service.

But despite recent upbeat assessments, there appears little sign of a much-wished-for discharge from hospital.

Last month, CBS network reported, citing unnamed sources, that Mandela underwent a surgical procedure to unblock a dialysis tube.

It also said that he had two scares, once when he failed to respond to his medications and on another occasion when his life support machine showed him in distress.

"It's quite painful, actually. We don't want to face the truth," said Rethabile Maake, a 21-year-old student outside the hospital.

Some people observed that since Mandela has been in care, the country has changed.

"Since he has been in hospital, everything is going down," said Tshepo Rampou, a 19-year-old student with one gold tooth, wearing a green Che Guevara shirt.

"People seem to have forgotten about the maintenance of peace," he said, adding that crime and corruption within the government is a problem.

There are fears that Mandela's message of peace will be lost when he is gone.

"Obviously we feel bad, we still need him around," said Stan Kgomotso, an unemployed 23-year-old from Venda, Limpopo.

Kgomotso is concerned by the message of some political factions, including that of the new political party, Economic Freedom Fighters, being against a racially united South Africa.

"You know they don't like whites," he said, "but whites bring money into our country. If Mandela goes I think it's going to be a mess up."

South Africa's government has been secretive about the health of the elder statesman, issuing infrequent and barebones statements and declining to comment on the specifics of his condition.

The entrance of Mandela's hospital is still plastered with hundreds of cards, pictures and flowers left by well-wishers.

On Wednesday a group of 50 schoolchildren sang outside the gates: "Mandela we love you, there's none like you."

© AFP 2019

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Critically ill former South African president Nelson Mandela marked two months in the hospital Thursday, as his compatriots extended their national vigil.
Thursday, 08 August 2013 07:22 AM
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