South Africans urged against false hopes for Nelson Mandela

South Africans urged against false hopes for Nelson Mandela

Pretoria : South Africa | Jun 23, 2013 at 12:59 PM PDT
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Pienaar on Mandela and rugby

Nelson Mandela survived Sunday night in Pretoria hospital but officials warned the nation to expect the worse.

"I think there is a need to be sombre about the news. There is a need not to hold out false hopes but at the same time let’s keep him in our thoughts and let’s will him more strength," said Mandela's spokesman, Mac Maharaj.

Madiba, the father of black rule in South Africa, has been in the hospital several times in recent months with breathing problems from a recurrent lung infection and pneumonia. He is 94, with a birthday due July 18.

Well-wishers and journalists gathered outside the Pretoria Mediclinic Heart hospital on a chilly Monday morning in the Southern Hemisphere winter.

It was the 18th anniversary of the day Mandela, who already had the love of the nation's black majority, became a hero to whites. He put on a Springbok jersey to celebrate their World Cup Rugby victory over New Zealand, and congratulated team captain Francois Pienaar.

There likely will be a political battle once Mandela is gone. President Jacob Zuma has been widely criticized, and it remains unclear whether he will be able to hold the reins of the dominant African National Congress. The Daily Maverick says even Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela, could be a candidate.

The Democratic Alliance, the minority party, said it was praying for Mandela. The news is in “critical' condition came as a blow to all South Africans," DA spokesperson Mmusi Maimane said Monday.

The South African Mail and Guardian reported:

"The condition of former President Nelson Mandela, who is still in hospital in Pretoria, has become critical," Maharaj said in a statement.

President Jacob Zuma and African National Congress (ANC) Deputy President Cyril Ramaphose visited Mandela Sunday evening.

"They were briefed by the medical team who informed them that the former president's condition had become critical over the past 24 hours."

The Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper said: The president and Ramaphosa were at the hospital talking with Mandela's wife, to Graca Machel Mandela's about his condition.

President Obama is scheduled to visit South Africa during a visit to the continent this week. His office has made clear he will not ask to see the ailing Mandela unless South Africa authorities think it is a good idea. Obama is due to arrive on Friday. Should Mandela die in the meantime, Obama likely would be invited to attend the funeral of the fellow Nobel Prize winner.

As an observer, who spent five years reporting on the anti-apartheid struggle for the Associated Press, the most noteworthy thing about Mandela, and tendancy that made him most like America’s Abraham Lincoln, was his refusal to let vengeance take control of him.

For thoughts on what may come ahead read Charlene Smith, a biographer and friend of Mandela, and a leading writer during the apartheid years.

Charlene Smith

Mandela's doctors were "doing everything possible to get his condition to improve,” Zuma said. "He is in good hands," said Zuma.

The report comes a day after it was revealed that when Mandela was transported to a Pretoria hospital from Johannesburg his military ambulance broke down three weeks ago.

The government insisted the 40-minute delay did not aggravate his pneumonia. Reportedly, he had begun to improve after treatment in the intensive care unit.

Courtesy of Charlene Smith

Learning from Nelson Mandela


Hope is the parent of change, and greatness can only occur when that which we believe to be impossible is challenged. Nelson Mandela and those who fought injustice in South Africa lived Abraham Lincoln’s words: “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be great.”

Sentenced to life in prison for daring to challenge racism, Nelson Mandela spent almost three decades in jail and emerged still preaching non-racism and non-sexism.

Mandela was not a great orator; he, like Mohandas Gandhi, led by practice. They understood that fine words mean nothing if the person who speaks them does not live them. It’s a truth that evades today’s sound-bite politicians. Mandela showed that tolerance and respect to all, especially your enemies, is imperative.

As the 21st century faces a crisis in leadership, one where politicians are concerned more with pleasing financial backers than the citizenry they are meant to serve, re-examining the life of Nelson Mandela, his successes and shortfalls, becomes important. He was a rare politician who was prepared to sacrifice comfort, status and even life in pursuit of a cause he believed to be great. His sacrifices changed the lives of millions, he showed the way, today’s failures are ours.

(excerpt from Mandela: In Celebration of a Great Life by Charlene Smith, Random House Struik, June 2012)

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South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar explains why Nelson Mandela's support for the team made him the president of South Africans of all colors.
Robert Weller is based in Denver, Colorado, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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