JOHANNESBURG – Nelson Mandela remained in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital Wednesday as elders from his AbaThembu clan traveled from the Eastern Cape to see him.
With hopes for Mandela’s recovery fading, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, shared a prayer that he had read at Mandela’s bedside late Tuesday for the former South African president, his wife Graca Machel and other family members.
Referring to Mandela by his clan name, the archbishop prayed: “Now enfold Madiba and Graca with compassion, comfort and the conviction that you will never forsake them, but that you will grant Madiba eternal healing and relief from pain and suffering.
“And may your blessing rest upon Madiba now and always,” the prayer continued. “Grant him, we pray, a quiet night and a peaceful, perfect, end.”
Mandela, 94, was admitted to the hospital June 8 to be treated for a recurring lung infection. As the days have worn on with no improvement in his condition, South Africans have appeared to reconcile themselves to the somber idea that the much-loved anti-apartheid leader, the country’s first black president, is close to death.
That idea was reinforced by presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj, who said South Africans should not hold out false hope.
Mandela family members traveled to his home village of Qunu on Tuesday to brief elders on his condition, news reports said.
The New Age newspaper reported activity near Mandela’s family grave site, with graders smoothing a road and six workers in the cemetery, cleaning the area. It was unclear whether preparations were being made for Mandela’s funeral, or whether the activity signaled that Mandela’s three deceased children — who were reburied in 2011 in the Mvezo area of the Eastern Cape by a grandson who is chief there — might be reburied in Qunu, or possibly both.
“It is concerning but clear that the cleaning of those graves has something to do with the condition of Baw’ uMandela,” the newspaper quoted a village elder, Qabukile Mvimbi, as saying, using a traditional honorific.
Mandela is revered for his role in fighting white-minority rule, ushering in a democratic government and promoting racial reconciliation. He has battled a series of lung infections in recent years, after contracting tuberculosis while serving 27 years in prison.
Mandela remained in serious condition for over a week after his latest hospital admission, and then was reported to have improved slightly. But his health deteriorated again late last week, and authorities announced Sunday that he was in critical condition.
South African officials have not commented on media reports that Mandela is on life support, saying that it would be a breach of patient-doctor confidentiality.