JOHANNESBURG, Jun 27 – Nelson Mandela is on life support, unable to breathe on his own, an elder in the South African icon’s clan said on Wednesday, all but extinguishing hopes for the Anti-apartheid hero’s recovery.
“Yes, he is using machines to breathe,” Napilisi Mandela told AFP after visit the much-loved 94 year old’s bedside. “It is bad, but what can we do,” added the elder who usually presides over family rituals and meetings.
President Jacob Zuma late Wednesday abruptly cancelled a trip to neighbouring Mozambique after he too visited Mandela’s Pretoria hospital, where he “found him to be still in a critical condition.”
It is the first time Zuma has scrapped a public engagement since Mandela was hospitalised nearly three weeks ago.
“President Zuma was briefed by the doctors who are still doing everything they can to ensure his well-being,” a statement from the presidency said.
Twenty-hours earlier Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba had visited the Mediclinic Heart Hospital to pray with wife Graca Machel “at this hard time of watching and waiting”.
“Grant Madiba eternal healing and relief from pain and suffering,” the prayer said. “Grant him, we pray…a peaceful, perfect, end.”
Outside the hospital emotional crowds have gathered to hold a candlelight vigil, to offer their own prayers and remember the life of one of the last remaining giants of 20th century history.
Supporters sang hymns for the father of South African democracy and the architect of remarkable transition from almost half a century of white minority rule to landmark multiracial elections.
“We have been so united – blacks and whites together. That’s the thought of Mandela in us,” said Lerato Boulares, 35.
With his life seemingly slipping away, messages of support for the former president blanketed a wall outside the hospital, including a poster bearing one of his most memorable quotes: “It only seems impossible until it’s done”.
Mandela’s lung troubles date from his 27 years locked up on the notorious Robben Island and in other apartheid prisons.