SOUTH AFRICANS prayed yesterday for the health of former president Nelson Mandela and anxiously awaited further word about the anti-apartheid leader after he was admitted to a military hospital.
President Jacob Zuma visited Mr Mandela yesterday morning at the hospital in Pretoria and found the frail 94-year-old to be “comfortable and in good care”, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said.
Mr Maharaj offered no other details about the former leader, nor what medical tests he had undergone since he entered the hospital on Saturday.
The continued uncertainty about Mr Mandela’s health saw worshippers gather yesterday morning at the Regina Mundi Catholic church in the Soweto area of Johannesburg to pray for the leader. The church was a centre of anti-apartheid protests and funerals.
“It really worries us because he is a great person,” church-goer Shainet Mnkomo said as she left an early morning service. “He did so many things for the country. He’s one of those people who we remember most.”
Mr Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term.
He later retired from public life to live in his remote village of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape area, and last made a public appearance when his country hosted the 2010 World Cup football tournament.
Many in this country of 50 million people view Mr Mandela, who led the African National Congress to power, as a father figure and an icon of integrity and magnanimity amid the nation’s increasingly messy politics.
Inside the church, a stained glass window depicts Mr Mandela, in a grey suit and blue tie, raising his hands to wave at a crowd.
His image stands just next to another portraying a man carrying the corpse of 13-year-old Hector Pieterson, who was gunned down by police in the black township of Soweto in June 1976 as students protested peacefully against the white government.
A statement from Mr Zuma’s office announced on Saturday that Mr Mandela had been taken to hospital for tests and was receiving medical care “which is consistent for his age”.
In February, Mr Mandela spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint. In January 2011, however, he was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests, but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection. He was discharged days later.
Mr Mandela contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison. He also had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985.
While South Africa’s government has offered no details about who would provide medical attention for Mr Mandela, the nation’s military has taken over medical care for the ageing leader since the 2011 respiratory infection.
At 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria on Saturday night, the facility that previously cared for Mr Mandela in February, everything appeared calm, without any additional security present.