SA remains worried over hospitalised Mandela

19:28, Dec 10 2012
Nelson Mandela
Former President Nelson Mandela greets children from Mvezo and Qunu villages, who came to wish well ahead of his birthday, in Johannesburg in this handout picture released by the Nelson Mandela Foundation on July 17, 2010.
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela, second left, at a open-air service for the country's Christian community at a football stadium in the township of Soweto, in 1994.
Nelson Mandela
Copies of former South Africa's president Nelson Mandela's book "Conversations with Myself" are displayed in a book shop window during its launch in Johannesburg October 12, 2010.
Nelson Mandela
Former South African President Nelson Mandela waves to the crowd at Soccer City stadium during the closing ceremony for the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg July 11, 2010.
Nelson Mandela
Former South African President Nelson Mandela leaves after attending the memorial service of his great-granddaughter Zenani Mandela, at the St Stithians College Chapel in Sandton, north of Johannesburg June 17, 2010.
Nelson Mandela
Former South African President Nelson Mandela arrives to attend the memorial service of his great-granddaughter Zenani Mandela at the St Stithians College Chapel in Sandton, north of Johannesburg June 17, 2010.
Nelson Mandela
South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela, left, and his wife Graca Machel sit in the gallery at the opening of Parliament in Cape Town February 11, 2010.
Nelson Mandela
Former South African President Nelson Mandela listens to the State of The Nation address being delivered by the current President Jacob Zuma at Parliament in Cape Town, June 3, 2009.
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela attends the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma at the Union Buildings in Pretoria May 9, 2009.
Nelson Mandela - RWC
President Nelson Mandela, right, with Louis Luyt, centre, before the start of the 1995 world cup.
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Mandela in 1994.
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The Queen visiting Mandela in 1995.
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Left, Mandela in 1992, right, Mandela accepting a Boston Celtics basketball team jersey bearing his name in 1990.
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Mandela in London, delivering a speech at a concert in his honour in 1990.
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Mandela in London, delivering a speech at a concert in his honour in 1990.
Nelson Mandela in 1964
Mandela in 1964, aged 45 awaiting his sentence after being accused of planning a "violent revoloution" against South Africa's racist policies.
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Left, Mandela acknowledging applause in Washington in 1990, Right, Mandela leaving court in 1958.
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Mandela, left, with Pope John Paul II during a private audience at the Vatican in 1990.
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Mandela sharing a laugh at a rally in Toronto, in 1990.
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Mandela leads a rally in Stockholm, Sweden.
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President Nelson Mandela at the opening of the CHOGUM conference in Auckland in 1995.
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President Nelson Mandela at the opening of the CHOGUM conference in Auckland in 1995.
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President Nelson Mandela shakes the hand of John Minto when he met the 1981 springbok protesters and thanked them for their efforts at St Mathews in the City during CHOGUM conference.
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President Nelson Mandela in Aotea square.
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Robben Island prison, where President Nelson Mandela spent 27 years imprisoned.
Nelson Mandela - Queen
A nine-foot statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela is unveiled outside South Africa's newly renovated embassy in Washington.
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Then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Nelson Mandela in 2013.

South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela has undergone more medical tests in a military hospital as the public and journalists outside asked: What, if anything, is wrong with the health of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon?

Government officials in charge of releasing information about Mandela have repeatedly declined to provide specifics about Mandela's now three-day hospitalisation, calling on citizens to respect the beloved politician's privacy.

Yet Mandela represents something more than a man to many in this nation of 50 million people and to the world at large, and the longer he remains in hospital care, the louder the demand for the private details about his health will grow.

"He symbolises what our country can achieve with a statesman of his stature. He's our inspiration and personifies our aspirations," an editorial in Monday's edition of the Sowetan newspaper reads.

"And that's why we dread his hospital visits, routine or not. That's why even now when we are told not to panic, we do."

Mandela is revered for being a leader of the struggle against racist white rule in South Africa and for preaching reconciliation once he emerged from prison in 1990 after 27 years behind bars.

NELSON MANDELA
HOSPITALISED: Nelson Mandela has a long-standing abdominal complaint.

He won South Africa's first truly democratic elections in 1994, serving one five-year term.

The Nobel laureate later retired from public life to live in his remote village of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, and last made a public appearance when his country hosted football's 2010 World Cup.

On Saturday, President Jacob Zuma's office announced Mandela had been admitted to a Pretoria hospital for medical tests and for care that was "consistent for his age."

Zuma visited Mandela on Sunday and found the former leader to be "comfortable and in good care," presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

Such is the level of confidentiality surrounding Mandela's hospitalisation that it wasn't until Monday that the public received government confirmation that he was being treated at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria, the capital.

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That word came from Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who visited the aging leader there. Speaking to journalists afterward, Mapisa-Nqakula said Mandela was "undergoing a series of tests to determine what is going on in his body." She said Mandela's release date would be determined by the result of those tests.

"He's doing very, very well," Mapisa-Nqakula said. "And it is important to keep him in our prayers and also to be as calm as possible and not cause a state of panic because I think that is not what all of us need."

The presidency later issued a statement saying Mandela "had a good night's rest" and would have more tests done.

"He is in good hands," Maharaj said in the statement.

Mandela has had a series of health problems in his life. He contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison and had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985.

In 2001, Mandela underwent seven weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer, ultimately beating the disease.

In February, Mandela spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint.

In January 2011, Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection.

The chaos that followed Mandela's stay at that public hospital, with journalists and the curious surrounding it and entering wards, saw the South African military take over his care and the government control the information about his health. That has brought many to complain about the lack of concrete details released about Mandela's condition in the last three days.

Much of that frustration comes from people's feelings that Mandela is more than a man or a national politician, said Frans Cronje, the deputy chief executive of the South African Institute of Race Relations.

"Mandela is what people like to remember about South Africa's transition. It's what they like to remember about the country," Cronje said.

"As we get confronted with more evidence of large-scale corruption ... I think there are people who look to Mandela as an example and say, 'We were better than this once.'"

Mandela, however, disengaged himself with the country's politics fairly successfully over the last decade. But he remains almost a talisman for racial reconciliation, with one artist in India feeling so strongly about Mandela's health that he sculpted his face out of sand on a beach on Sunday in the town of Puri.

Near the face, he wrote out in sand: "Get well soon."

That's a wish that's been repeatedly broadcast across television and radio stations in South Africa, printed in newspaper headlines and whispered as prayers in recent days for the increasingly frail icon.

AP