CAPE TOWN, Jun 9 – South Africans were urged to let go of their beloved hero Nelson Mandela on Sunday after the ailing 94-year-old spent a second night in hospital with a recurrent pneumonia infection.
Officials have not released an update on Mandela’s health since announcing that he was back in hospital and was in a “serious but stable” condition more than 24 hours ago.
“It’s time to let him go,” was the front-page headline in the Sunday Times with a picture of the former statesman smiling and waving.
“We wish Madiba a speedy recovery, but I think what is important is that his family must release him,” long-time friend Andrew Mlangeni, 87, told the newspaper, using Mandela’s clan name.
“You (Madiba) have been coming to the hospital too many times. Quite clearly you are not well and there is a possibility you might not be well again.”
It is the fourth hospital stay for Mandela, who turns 95 next month, since December.
“Once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow. We will say thank you, God, you have given us this man, and we will release him too,” said Mlangeni, who served time alongside Mandela in apartheid prison.
The Sunday media splashed pictures of the country’s first black president in better health on the front pages.
The presidency confirmed Saturday that Mandela is breathing unassisted.
The City Press’s front page showed a picture of a smiling Mandela and quoted President Jacob Zuma urging prayers, while the tabloid Sunday Sun headline was “Madiba fights for life!”
Journalists were once again gathered outside a Pretoria hospital where Mandela is believed to be, but the presidency has not disclosed the location.