, JOHANNESBURG, Jun 10 – Nelson Mandela remains in a serious but stable condition, the South African government said on Monday, three days after the revered peace icon was rushed to hospital with a recurrent lung infection.
“Former president Nelson Mandela remains in hospital, and his condition is unchanged,” the presidency said in a statement.
The frail 94-year-old was taken to a Pretoria hospital in the early hours of Saturday for a lung infection, with the government then describing his condition “serious but stable”.
It is the fourth hospital stay in seven months for the man beloved as a global symbol of peace and forgiveness and the father of the “Rainbow Nation.”
And with his latest health scare, South Africans are beginning to come to terms with the mortality of their anti-apartheid hero and first black president.
“I’ve seen my father and he’s well. He’s a fighter,” one of Mandela’s daughters Zindzi told South Africa’s Guardian newspaper on Sunday.
Two of Mandela’s daughters and some grandchildren were spotted on Sunday entering a private specialist heart clinic in Pretoria where he is believed to be receiving treatment although the government has not confirmed where he is staying.
The Star newspaper reported on Monday that Mandela’s family has banned hosptial visits by non-family members including government officials and members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
The family declined to comment.
But presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj, who served jail time with Mandela, said the authorities wanted “to create a conducive environment for his recovery.
“So, close loved-ones are going to him for that reason, that’s all, nothing else,” he said. “He is receiving treatment and we want him to receive the treatment in the best condition for his family.”
The Nobel peace prize laureate, who turns 95 next month, was back in hospital two months after being discharged in April following treatment for pneumonia.
He has not been seen in public since the World Cup final in South Africa in July 2010.
“It’s time to let him go,” was the stark front-page headline in the Sunday Times newspaper, reflecting the mood of many in the country.
“We wish Madiba a speedy recovery, but I think what is important is that his family must release him,” his long-time friend Andrew Mlangeni, 87, told the Sunday Times, using his Mandela’s name.
“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 was jailed for life alongside Mandela in 1964.
While Twitter users expressed sadness and urged a quick recovery, they were also prepared for the worst.
“It’s time to let Nelson Mandela go. He has served his country. Let him rest with dignity and a legacy that will never die,” tweeted Ketha Msane.
South African pulmonologist Guy Richards told AFP that recurring pneumonia was rare unless there was previous lung damage.
“For example if you had tuberculosis, then often those damaged areas will be colonised with bacteria which are able to cause recurrent infections,” he said.
Mandela was diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988 and also has had treatment for prostate cancer and suffered stomach ailments.
In December, Mandela spent 18 days in hospital, his longest stay since walking free from an apartheid prison in 1990.
In March he was admitted for a scheduled overnight check-up before returning later that month for 10 days suffering pneumonia.
President Jacob Zuma in March appeared to prepare the nation for Mandela’s passing, saying it “should be thinking about” his going home.
Controversial television footage in April showed a frail, distant and unsmiling Mandela being visited at home by ANC leaders, sparking accusations that his party was exploiting him.
The ANC — facing 2014 elections — has lost much of its Mandela shine amid widespread corruption, poverty and poor public services.
After serving just one term as president, Mandela turned his energy to the battle against AIDS and conflict resolution, before stepping out of the public eye a decade ago at the age of 85.