The world prepares to let go of Mandela

The antiapartheid hero remains in critical condition

CAMERA PRESS / Gallo Images / Foto24 / Halden Krog

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA — We sit and wait for the inevitable news that Nelson Mandela is dead. I’m reporting from Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa, where Mandela served as the country’s first democratic president. For the past three weeks, I’ve been back and forth from the hospital, located in Sunnyside, a grungy neighbourhood close to the downtown core, where more and more well-wishers are coming to pay tribute to the antiapartheid hero.

Some have prayed for his recovery, hoping God can borrow Mandela to them for just a bit longer. But a growing number of others believe it is time to let him go. There are reports Mandela is in a coma, that he is breathing, that he is dead. We can’t trust anything except what is released by the presidency, who maintains Mandela’s condition remains critical.

The latest news is that Madiba — Mandela’s clan name — is on life support. Mandela, who has been in hospital since June 8, is using a ventilator to breathe, has reportedly suffered kidney failure, and is undergoing renal dialysis, treatment that performs the kidney’s function, reports The Citizen. “He is on a ventilation life support and his kidney function is very low. He is critical, but has a entire team of doctors, from a cardiac specialist, pulmonary specialist, kidney specialist and a main consultant looking after him,” said a source.

When Mandela was first admitted to hospital three weeks ago, South Africans were hopeful that he would recover. Since then, however, the statesman’s condition deteriorated from “serious, but stable” to “critical.” Today, there is a growing feeling of resignation that their leader, their greatest symbol of the triumph over apartheid, is leaving them. “Grant Madiba eternal healing and relief from pain and suffering,” said Archbishop Makoba, who visited Mandela and Graca Machel, his wife, in hospital yesterday. “We pray a quiet night and a peaceful, perfect, end.”

On Monday, members of Mandela’s family visited him in the hospital. On Tuesday, some of them held a confidential meeting in Qunu, Mandela’s home village in the province of the Eastern Cape. Reporters watched his grandson, Ndaba Mandela, visiting the family gravesite, a plot of grassy land ringed with rusted barbed wire. On Wednesday — one day after Zindzi Mandela, his daughter, told NBC News her father “opened his eyes” and “smiled” — a machine digger arrived at the plot. The president of the Congress of Traditional Leaders, Phathekile Holomisa, who said if it was up to him, he would as the Creator to make a quick decision on Mandela’s life.

One week ago, Graca Machel, Mandela’s wife, thanked well-wishers for giving their love and support. “We have felt the closeness of the world and the deepest meaning of strength and peace,” she said in a statement released by the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Machel has not given a comment or been seen over the past couple of days. It’s believed she is sleeping in the hospital, unable to leave her husband’s side.

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