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article imageNelson Mandela in 'critical condition' — South Africa's Zuma says

By Yukio Strachan     Jun 23, 2013 in World
Pretoria - South African international icon Nelson Mandela's condition deteriorated to "critical" on Sunday, South Africa's president said, adding doctors "are doing everything possible” for the anti-apartheid hero.
"The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well looked after and is comfortable," President Jacob Zuma told the South African Broadcasting Corporation, referring to Mandela by his clan name.
Mandela, 94, has been in intensive care for what the government said was a recurring lung infection since June 8. This is his fourth hospitalization with respiratory problems since December, The Times in South Africa said.
Until Sunday, family members of the former South African president, his presidential successor, Thabo Mbeki, and Zuma all said Madiba’s condition was on the mend.
But when Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy leader of South Africa's ruling party, African National Congress (ANC), visited Mandela in the hospital Sunday, doctors said in the last 24 hours his condition had gone downhill.
"Obviously we are very worried," ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu told Johannesburg station Talk Radio 702 after the visit. "We are praying for him, his family and the doctors."
Ambulance broke down in sub-zero weather
The news comes two weeks after the ambulance rushing the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader to Pretoria's Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital broke down, leaving him stranded in sub-zero temperatures on the highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria for 45 minutes.
Zuma told the South African news station he was "assured by the doctors that when the ambulance transporting former President Mandela to the hospital on the 8th of June developed engine problems, all care was taken to ensure that all care was taken to ensure that his medical condition was not compromised."
The President insists Mandela’s health was not compromised.
"There were seven doctors in the convoy who were in full control of the situation throughout the period. He had expert medical care. The fully equipped military ICU ambulance had a full complement of specialist medical staff including intensive care specialists and ICU nurses," Zuma said.
Letting go
Meanwhile, Zuma called on the nation and the world to keep Madiba, who is due to celebrate his 95th birthday on July 18, in their prayers.
As Reuters points out, "there is a growing realization among South Africa's 53 million people that they will one day have to say goodbye to the father of the "Rainbow Nation" that Mandela tried to forge from the ashes of apartheid."
Former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema told South Africa's Eyewitness News that although it doesn't want to, South Africa has to reach a point where the country can let go.
"If his name has been called the least we can do is pray for him."
His family sees it differently.
"In our culture, the Tembu culture, ... you never release the person unless the person has told you: 'Please my children, my family, release me.'" Nelson Mandela's daughter Makaziwe told CNN's Johannesburg correspondent Robyn Curnow. "My dad hasn't said that to us."
"So these people who want to talk about, you know, release him, he hasn't said we should release him and we haven't come to the end yet. It is only God who knows the end," she said.
Mandela's lung problems date back to when he contracted tuberculosis as a political prisoner on Robben Island. He was jailed for 27 years for fighting against apartheid, the country's system of racial segregation. Seen around the world as the founding father of South Africa's democracy and hope for a better future, Mandela saw the fruit of this long struggle when he was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994.
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