Mandela in unexpected visit to home village

May 23, 2011 12:00 am

, JOHANNESBURG, May 23 – South Africa\’s ailing former president Nelson Mandela has flown to his birthplace in his first trip outside Johannesburg since leaving hospital in January, the presidency said Monday.

"Former president Nelson Mandela is spending some time resting at his home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape," the president\’s office said.

"We are pleased that he is now well enough to travel," President Jacob Zuma said.

Media reports said the frail 92-year-old, who has been receiving round-the-clock home-based medical care, had told his family last week that he wanted to go home.

Before his arrival, five aircraft, including a military medical helicopter were seen at the rural Mthatha airport.

Mandela later arrived in a Boeing accompanied by his wife Graca Machel, the reports said. The elder statesman was then transferred by a specially designed wheelchair-lift truck to an awaiting ambulance, according to The Times newspaper.

Those who saw Mandela said he appeared to be happy and chatted to youngsters, asking about their school progress, The Times reported.

A medical aircraft hovered above a 12-vehicle convoy as he was transported to his residence.

He was welcomed home by his grandson, Mandla Mandela and senior members from his clan.

It was the first time the iconic leader left his Johannesburg home since leaving hospital after receiving two days of treatment for an acute respiratory infection.

Monday\’s statement from Zuma\’s office did not give reasons for his unexpected trip, describing it as "a normal scheduled visit."

"We thank the public and the media for granting him privacy in the last three months, and we urge them to continue to do so," the statement said.

Last week, Mandela voted from home for local government elections, with Zuma saying he appeared to be in "good spirits" after he visited him.

It was the first time that he voted at home, in a special arrangement for the infirm.

Mandela was elected the country\’s first black president in South Africa\’s first all-race vote in 1994 and served one term before stepping down in 1999.


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