Former South African president Nelson Mandela was discharged from hospital yesterday after a keyhole abdominal examination showed there was nothing seriously wrong with the 93-year-old anti-apartheid leader, the government said.
“The doctors have decided to send him home as the diagnostic procedure he underwent did not indicate anything seriously wrong with him,” South African President Jacob Zuma’s office said in a statement.
His departure from Pretoria’s “1 Military” hospital in a multi-vehicle motorcade marks the end of an anxious 24-hour wait for South Africa’s 50 million people, after Mandela was admitted on Saturday morning with “long-standing abdominal pain.”
The government insisted throughout there was nothing to panic about.
Zuma told the country not to panic after the 93-year-old anti-apartheid leader was hospitalized on Saturday, saying he should be discharged yesterday or today.
South African Defense Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said Mandela had had “investigative laparoscopy” — a tiny camera inserted into the abdomen — and denied reports he had undergone surgery for a hernia.
“It wasn’t the surgery that has been out there in the media at all,” Sisulu told a media briefing in Cape Town.
“He’s fine. He’s as fine as can be at his age — and handsome,” Sisulu said.
Mandela’s admission wasn’t an emergency and was “pre-planned,” Mac Maharaj, Zuma’s spokesman, said by telephone on Saturday.
Even though he stepped down at the end of his first term in office in 1999, South Africa’s first black president continues to occupy a central position in the psyche of a country ruled by the 10 percent white minority until all-race elections in 1994.
The news of his hospitalization put millions of people on edge in South Africa and beyond, prompting a deluge of panicked questions, get-well messages and frenzied online speculation.
Mandela has been in poor health since he was hospitalized a year ago with respiratory problems, and this latest scare hammered home to many that Mandela, who was incarcerated for 27 years by the apartheid government, might not live for much longer.
He failed to attend or even send a recorded message to the centenary celebrations of the African National Congress last month.
Sources close to the former president say he is increasingly frail and not always lucid, though he continues to have good and bad days.
“We wish him well,” Soweto resident Ronny Zondi said. “But understanding his age, we’ve got to accept he might not be with us for long. We wish that God could keep him longer.”
Mandela’s last public appearance was in July 2010 at the final of the World Cup in Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium.
Mandela’s spirits were said to have been lifted last year when he moved back to his home village, Qunu, in Eastern Cape Province.
However, on Jan. 29 he returned to Johannesburg’s northern suburbs so that renovations could be carried out on his Qunu property, officials said.
The government’s public comments on his hospitalization have been markedly more open than a year ago.
Then, Zuma’s office took hours to confirm media reports of a sudden decline in Mandela’s health, leading to a scrum of local and international reporters outside Johannesburg’s Milpark hospital.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg