Nelson Mandela Is Making Progress and in Good Spirits, Says South Africa

Former President Spends Second Day in Hospital for Lung Infection

Getty Images

By Reuters

Published March 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

South African former President Nelson Mandela is in good spirits and making progress, doctors said on Friday, after the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero was taken to hospital for the third time in four months for a lung infection.

The medical report was a relief to South Africans who had been anxiously praying and waiting for an update on the health of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, hospitalised before midnight on Wednesday. Global leaders sent their best wishes.

President Jacob Zuma’s government had already reported Mandela was responding well to treatment, and Zuma had sought to reassure the nation, recalling that the revered statesman’s advanced age meant he required frequent medical checks.

“President Nelson Mandela is in good spirits and enjoyed a full breakfast this morning,” Zuma’s office said in a statement.

“The doctors report that he is making steady progress. He remains under treatment and observation in hospital,” it added.

Mandela became South Africa’s first black president after winning the country’s first all-race election in 1994.

A former lawyer, he is revered at home and abroad for leading the struggle against white minority rule - including spending 27 years in prison on Robben Island - and then promoting the cause of racial reconciliation.

In churches across South Africa, many included Mandela in their prayers on Good Friday, one of the most important days in the Christian calendar.

At the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in the Soweto township outside Johannesburg where Mandela once lived, churchgoers lit candles for him. “He’s an icon today and we are free because of him,” parishioner Oupa Radebe said.

“I hope this time God will have mercy on him to give him the strength and courage to continue to be an icon for our country,” Father Benedict Mahlangu said at the service.

U.S. President Barak Obama sent Mandela his best wishes.

“When you think of a single individual that embodies the kind of leadership qualities that I think we all aspire to, the first name that comes up is Nelson Mandela. And so we wish him all the very best,” he said.

“LIKE A FATHER”

Mandela’s fragile health has been a concern for years as he has withdrawn from the public eye and mostly stayed at his affluent homes in Johannesburg and in Qunu, the rural village in the destitute Eastern Cape province near where he was born.

President Zuma has urged the nation to remain calm.

“Of course I have been saying to people, you should bear in mind Madiba is no longer that young and if he goes for check-ups every now and again, I don’t think people must be alarmed about it,” Zuma told the BBC on Thursday.

“In Zulu, when someone passes away who is very old, people say he or she has ‘gone home’. I think those are some of the things we should be thinking about.”

Madiba is the clan name by which many South Africans refer to Mandela, whose face adorns the country’s new bank notes.

Despite his absence from the political scene for the past decade, he remains an enduring and beloved symbol of the struggle against racism.

“He’s like a father to me … There is no more apartheid, black and white can go to the same places,” said Princess Nopuhle, a student, aged 18, in Johannesburg’s Mandela Square.

As he has receded from public life, critics say his ruling African National Congress (ANC) has lost the moral compass he bequeathed it when he stepped down as president in 1999.

Under such leaders as Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, the ANC gained wide international respect when it battled white rule.

LEADER OF “GOLDEN PERIOD”

Once the yoke of apartheid was thrown off in 1994, it began governing South Africa in a blaze of goodwill from world leaders who viewed it as a beacon for a troubled continent and world.

Almost two decades later, this image has dimmed as ANC leaders have been accused of indulging in the spoils of office, squandering mineral resources and engaging in power struggles.

Mandela has been criticised for not doing enough to prevent an HIV/AIDS epidemic and for making political compromises in the transition from apartheid that led to the black majority being still largely excluded from the benefits of the country’s mineral wealth.

But his achievement in leading South Africa out of apartheid and averting all-out racial war is seen as eclipsing this.

“Amongst most South Africans, he is associated with a so-called ‘golden period’ of the end of apartheid and the beginning of the new democratic state. He represents all of the best of that, including the reconciliation,” said Nic Borain, an independent political analyst.

Mandela was in hospital briefly earlier this month for a check-up and spent nearly three weeks in hospital in December with a lung infection and after surgery to remove gallstones.

That was his longest stay in hospital since his release from prison in 1990 after serving almost three decades for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government.

Mandela has a history of lung problems dating back to when he contracted tuberculosis as a political prisoner.

Many South Africans said they felt the country’s problems had worsened since Mandela withdrew from active politics.

“There was more peace and freedom when he was running it. Now the splits have come back again,” said Natascha Roberts, taking pictures of her family in front of a towering statue of Mandela at the Sandton City mall in suburban Johannesburg.

“If he can go on for another few years, it would be great.” (Additional reporting by Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Alistair Lyon)


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.