Nelson Mandela Now in Critical Condition

94-Year-Old Anti-Apartheid Leader Has Been Battling Illness

getty images

By Reuters

Published June 23, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s condition deteriorated to “critical” on Sunday, the government said, two weeks after the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader was admitted to hospital with a lung infection.

The worsening of his condition is bound to concern South Africa’s 53 million people, for whom Mandela remains the architect of a peaceful transition to democracy in 1994 after three centuries of white domination.

A government statement said President Jacob Zuma and the deputy leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Cyril Ramaphosa, visited Mandela in his Pretoria hospital, where doctors said his condition had gone downhill in the last 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,” it said, referring to him by his clan name.

Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president after historic all-race elections nearly two decades ago, was rushed to a Pretoria hospital on June 8 with a recurrence of a lung infection, his fourth hospitalisation in six months.

Until Sunday, official communiques had described his condition as “serious but stable” although comments last week from Mandela family members and his presidential successor, Thabo Mbeki, suggested he was on the mend.

Since stepping down after one term as president, Mandela has played little role in the public or political life of the continent’s biggest and most important economy.

His last public appearance was waving to fans from the back of a golf cart before the final of the soccer World Cup in Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium in July 2010.

During his retirement, he has divided his time between his home in the wealthy Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, and Qunu, the village in the impoverished Eastern Cape province where he was born.

The public’s last glimpse of him was a brief clip aired by state television in April during a visit to his home by Zuma and other senior ANC officials.

At the time, the 101-year-old liberation movement, which led the fight against white-minority rule, assured the public Mandela was “in good shape” although the footage showed a thin and frail old man sitting expressionless in an armchair.

“Obviously we are very worried,” ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu told Johannesburg station Talk Radio 702. “We are praying for him, his family and the doctors.”

“ABSOLUTELY AN ICON”

Since his latest admission to hospital, well-wishers have been arriving at his Johannesburg home, with scores of school-children leaving painted stones outside the gates bearing prayers for his recovery.

However, for the first time, South African media have broken a taboo against contemplating the inevitable passing of the father of the post-apartheid “Rainbow Nation” and one of the 20th century’s most influential figures.

The day after he went into hospital, South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper carried a front-page headline saying it was “time to let him go”.

“He’s absolutely an icon and if he’s gone we just have to accept that. He will be gone but his teachings, what he stood for, I’m sure we’ve all learnt and we should be able to live with it and reproduce it wherever we go,” said Tshepho Langa, a customer at a Johannesburg hotel.

“He’s done his best,” he added. “We are grateful for it and we are willing to do the good that he has done.”

In Washington, President Barack Obama’s National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the White House has seen the reports on Mandela’s health. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and the people of South Africa,” she said.

Obama is scheduled to visit South Africa with his family later this week. On Friday, a White House adviser said the president would defer to the Mandela family’s wishes on any contact with the former South African leader.

Despite the widespread adulation for Mandela, he is not without detractors at home and in the rest of Africa who feel that in the dying days of apartheid he made too many concessions to whites, who make up just 10 percent of the population.

After more than 10 years of affirmative action policies aimed at redressing the balance, South Africa remains one of the world’s most unequal societies, with whites still controlling much of the economy and the average white household earning six times more than a black one.

“Mandela has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of (blacks),” Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 89, said in a documentary aired on South African television this month.

“That’s being too saintly, too good, too much of a saint.”


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!
  • 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.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 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.