Nelson Mandela still in 'serious, but stable condition'

BBC's Andrew Harding: South Africans are preparing for the worst

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South African ex-President Nelson Mandela remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital, the government has said in a statement.

President Jacob Zuma was given an update of his condition by his medical team on Monday evening, it added.

The 94-year-old is spending his fourth day in hospital for treatment for a recurrent lung infection.

Relatives, including his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, visited the ailing former leader on Monday.

He has been in intensive care since he was admitted to the hospital in Pretoria on Saturday for the third time this year.

In December, Mr Mandela spent 18 days undergoing treatment for a lung infection and gallstones.

Prayers

Behind the scenes, we're hearing more gloomy, confidential assessments. We've seen the first signs perhaps of the family of Nelson Mandela beginning to gather at his bedside.

We've also heard from some of his close friends, one saying that it was time for the public and the family to let him go.

There is a general sense here that the public is catching on to the sombre mood surrounding Nelson Mandela. For many years, people did not even want to speak about the possibility of his death. Increasingly it seems South Africans are preparing for bad news.

"President Jacob Zuma last night, 10 June 2013, met with the medical team that is treating former President Nelson Mandela, and they gave him a thorough briefing. The former president is still in a serious, but stable condition," the statement from the government said.

Earlier, the foundation led by retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu issued a statement describing Mr Mandela as an "extraordinary gift".

"As the beloved father of our nation, Nelson Mandela once again endures the ravages of time in hospital," the foundation said.

"Our prayers are for his comfort and his dignity."

There are signs that his family may have begun to gather at his bedside, the BBC's Andrew Harding, in Pretoria, reports.

On Monday, Mr Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, visited him. His grand-daughters have also been coming and going, our correspondent says.

The leader's daughter, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, has returned to South Africa from Argentina, where she is the ambassador, to visit her father.

His wife, Graca Machel, cancelled a scheduled appearance in London on Saturday to remain at her husband's bedside.

Nelson Mandela: Key dates

Nelson Mandela in June 2010
  • 1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
  • 1943 Joins African National Congress
  • 1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped
  • 1962 Arrested, convicted of sabotage, sentenced to five years in prison
  • 1964 Charged again, sentenced to life
  • 1990 Freed from prison
  • 1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1994 Elected first black president
  • 1999 Steps down as leader
  • 2004 Retires from public life
  • 2010 Last public appearance - at World Cup finals

In an earlier statement, the government said: "President Jacob Zuma reiterates his call for South Africa to pray for Madiba and the family during this time." Madiba is Mr Mandela's clan name.

Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj also denied reports that visitors were being barred from seeing Mr Mandela.

He said: "The reality is that the normal procedures when a patient is under intensive care are applying from the medical side.

"When a person is in intensive care the doctors only allow some very close people to be there."

The presidency also said Mr Mandela had been ill for some days at his Johannesburg home, with a recurrence of his long-standing lung problems.

He was admitted to hospital after his condition worsened at 01:30 on Saturday (23:30 GMT Friday).

Nelson Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999.

He was previously imprisoned for 27 years, and is believed to have suffered damaged lungs while working in a prison quarry.

He contracted tuberculosis in the 1980s while being held in jail on the windswept Robben Island.

He retired from public life in 2004 and has been rarely seen in public since.

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