Johannesburg - South Africans appeared resigned on Monday to
the inevitability of one day saying goodbye to Nelson Mandela after the
94-year-old former president's condition in hospital deteriorated to critical.
With his latest hospitalisation - his fourth in six months -
a realisation has set in that he will not be around forever.
His deterioration this weekend, two weeks after being
admitted in a serious but stable condition with a lung infection, has caused a
perceptible switch in mood from prayers for recovery to preparations for a fond
"If it's his time to go, he can go. I wish God can look
after him," said nurse Petunia Mafuyeka, as she headed to work in
"We will miss him very much. He fought for us to give
us freedom. We will remember him every day. When he goes I will cry."
In a statement, President Jacob Zuma's office urged South
Africa and the world to pray for Mandela "during this difficult
time". But there was some concern among the public about doctors trying to
prolong the life of one of the 20th century's most influential figures.
"I'm worried that they're keeping him alive. I feel
they should let him go," said Doris Lekalakala, a claims manager.
"The man is old. Let nature take its course. He must just rest."
Since stepping down in 1999 after one term as president,
Mandela has stayed out of active politics in the continent's biggest and most
important economy and his passing is expected to have little political impact.
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 in July
During his retirement, he has divided his time between his
home in Johannesburg and Qunu, the village in the Eastern Cape where he was
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
officials of the ruling ANC.
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.