, JOHANNESBURG, Jun 24 – Nelson Mandela is in a critical condition in hospital, South Africa’s presidency said late on Sunday, marking a sudden and significant deterioration in the health of the former leader and anti-apartheid hero.
“The condition of former president Nelson Mandela, who is still in hospital in Pretoria, has become critical,” said presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj, 16 days after Mandela was admitted for treatment for a lung infection.
Mandela, now a frail 94-year-old, was previously said to be in a serious but stable condition.
But after more than two weeks of intensive treatment at Pretoria’s Mediclinic Heart Hospital, his condition is said to have deteriorated over the weekend.
President Jacob Zuma visited Mandela on Sunday evening and was told by doctors “that the former president’s condition had become critical over the past 24 hours.”
Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, is due to celebrate his 95th birthday on July 18.
He has been hospitalised four times since December, mostly for the pulmonary condition that has plagued him for years.
Throughout most of the last week his condition was said to be improving, and there had been suggestions from his family that he may be released.
Zuma sought to assure the country that medics were now doing all they could to save his life.
“The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well-looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands,” Zuma said, using the revered leader’s clan name.
Zuma was accompanied to the hospital by the ruling ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.
At the hospital, the two also met with Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, who has been by Mandela’s bedside since he was taken ill, and they discussed the condition of the Nobel Peace laureate.