South Africa’s presidency yesterday denied reports that former president Nelson Mandela had been discharged from hospital, saying the 95-year-old anti-apartheid icon remained critical but stable.
“Madiba is still in hospital in Pretoria, and remains in a critical but stable condition,” South African President Jacob Zuma’s Mac Maharaj spokesman said in a statement, denying reports from several news organizations that he had left the facility.
“At times his condition becomes unstable, but he responds to medical interventions,” the statement said.
During Mandela’s 80-plus days in hospital, the presidency through Maharaj has been the official source of information about the condition of the revered leader.
However, updates have been infrequent and have offered few details, prompting frequent speculation.
At the end of July, Zuma’s office said Mandela was continuing to show signs of improvement after scares were reported.
Mandela was rushed to hospital on June 8 for a respiratory infection and has remained in critical condition for most of the time since.
His lung problems date back to his 27 years in jail, where he contracted tuberculosis as a political prisoner.
Madiba, his clan name by which he is lovingly known in the country, has been in and out of hospital since last year, with lung related complications.
In December, he spent nearly three weeks in hospital where he was treated for a lung infection and gall stones.
However, this is his longest hospitalization since he walked free from jail in 1990 and went on to become the country’s first leader to be elected in all-race elections.
In June, Mandela was said to be on life support, but has recently been reported to be breathing on his own.
The global icon has received an outpouring of messages of support including prayers from clergymen and the general public.
Family members including his wife, Graca Machel, and ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela have been visiting his bedside at the private hospital in Pretoria.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the facility on his 95th birthday to wish him well and sing songs and members of the public have left cards and flowers outside the hospital for months to show support.
News about Mandela’s health often causes panic and confusion among South Africans.
Two weeks after his arrival at Pretoria’s MediClinic Heart Hospital, it emerged that the military ambulance that was transporting him to the facility in the middle of the night had broken down and Mandela had to be transferred to another one to complete the journey.
Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, after leading talks that ended the white minority rule. He only served a single four-year term as president, stepping down in 1999.