Former South African President Nelson Mandela, 92, Hospitalized for a Second Day
I have a feeling that the death of his favorite great-granddaughter, 13-year-old Zenani, at the hands of a drunk driver last summer, just took all the life out of the former president and Nobel Laureate, known affectionately by his clan name of Madiba among black South Africans. He wasn’t even allowed to privately mourn her in his own way, as he was asked to come out of retirement to close the World Cup competition at Soccer City in Soweto. Even then, it was remarked how frail he looked. It is reported that Nelson Mandela said the equivalent of don’t call me, I’ll call you, to ANC members when his brief appearance was over. He has not been seen in public since. Until now.
Too many years wasted to receive these kinds of accolades time and again. Nelson Mandela’s done all he can, and more. He is tired. His body, and probably his spirit, is tired. He can’t stay here forever, even being the symbol of the nation. But look out when he does finally die. South Africa will convulse in grief.
Spokesmen are saying that Mandela’s life is not in danger, and that he may be released as early as tomorrow. Some are speculating that he has a lung infection or a collapsed lung. He was apparently stricken while on vacation with his wife, Graça Machel, the widow of Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel. He was checked into the hospital for what were called “routine tests,” the usual blanket all-purpose reason. However, a steady stream of high-ranking visitors were noted to have come to Netcare Milpark Hospital, including Jeff Radebe, South Africa’s justice minister, Richard Maponya, the developer of Soweto’s first major shopping mall, and activist Albertina Sisulu, the widow of Walter Sisulu, the long-time African National Congress president. When Mandela’s controversial ex-wife Winnie was reportedly seen emerging from Milpark weeping, a wave of concern swept over the country. Security is tight around the hospital.
“People have flooded to the hospital and to his house,” police spokesman Vish Naidoo said in an interview from Johannesburg yesterday. (Mandela lives in the affluent suburb of Houghton in Jo’berg, so his well-to-do neighbors must be flipping out as well.) “We are concerned about potential threats and risks so we had to step up security. We will review on a constant basis whether this needs to be further increased.”
“He was all right, I mean, he’s 92, you know.
“What more do we want from him? We want him to remain forever, but you know… anything can happen.”
Privately Mr Mandela’s friends have warned that his health has begun to deteriorate more rapidly in recent months, says the BBC’s Andrew Harding in Johannesburg.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Nelson Mandela Foundation insisted Mr Mandela was “in no danger and is in good spirits”.
It said he was undergoing routine tests, though South African media report he is being seen by a lung specialist.
“He is a 92-year-old and will have ailments associated with his age and the fact that he stayed the night should not suggest the worst,” the African National Congress spokesman Jackson Mthembu said on Thursday.
It may not be the end. But it may be the beginning of the end.