Johannesburg - Millions prayed and waited on Thursday
after another downturn in the condition of Nelson Mandela forced President
Jacob Zuma to cancel a trip to neighbouring Mozambique.
Zuma, who arrived at the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria on Thursday, had been due to attend a summit in Maputo of the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) to discuss regional
infrastructure, but pulled out after visiting the 94-year-old former president
in hospital late on Wednesday.
"Over the past 48 hours, the condition of former
president Madiba has gone down," presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj
On Thursday morning, Mandela's eldest daughter Makaziwe
led a group of his grandchildren to see him in the Pretoria hospital where he
has been receiving treatment since 8 June for a lung infection.
Makaziwe told SABC radio after her visit that Mandela was
responding to touch.
"I won't lie, it doesn't look good. But as I say, if
we speak to him, he responds and tries to open his eyes. He's still there. He
might be waning off, but he's still there," she said.
One granddaughter, Ndileka, described him as
"stable" and thanked well-wishers from around the world for their
Maharaj had earlier declined to comment on media reports
that Mandela was on life support, saying his privacy should be respected.
Mandela's fourth hospitalisation in six months has forced
a growing realisation among South Africans that the man regarded as the father
of their post-apartheid "Rainbow Nation" will not be among them forever.
"Mandela is very old and at that age, life is not
good. I just pray that God takes him this time. He must go. He must rest,"
said Ida Mashego, a 60-year-old office cleaner in Johannesburg's Sandton
‘Celebrating his life’
US President Barack Obama is due to visit South Africa at
the weekend as part of a three-nation Africa tour he has already started in
Maharaj said it was too early to say whether Obama's
schedule in Johannesburg and Cape Town on Saturday and Sunday might be affected
by Mandela's worsening condition.
Well-wishers' messages, bouquets and stuffed animals have
piled up outside Mandela's Johannesburg home and the wall of the hospital
compound where he is being treated in the capital.
As they headed to work on Thursday, South Africans seemed
resigned to the prospect of losing their hero.
"We are all going to feel bad when he passes, but at
the same time we will be celebrating his life. He has done so many great things
for this country," said John Ndlovu, a 25-year-old office worker.
Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one five-year term in
Since then he has played little role in public life,
dividing his time in retirement 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
officials from the ANC.
At the time, the ANC said Mandela was "in good
shape", although the footage showed a thin and frail old man sitting
expressionless in an armchair.