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Nelson Mandela now in 'critical' condition

RAW VISION: South Africans pray for former president Nelson Mandela, whose condition has deteriorated to 'critical' two weeks after the 94-year-old was admitted to hospital with a lung infection.

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Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela is in a critical condition in hospital, 16 days after he was admitted with a recurrent lung infection.

‘‘The condition of former president Nelson Mandela, who is still in hospital in Pretoria, has become critical,’’ South African presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement on Sunday.

With the latest hospitalisation, many South Africans have come to terms with the much-loved hero’s fragility. 

The condition of 94-year-old who entered the hospital on June 8 was said to have deteriorated over the weekend.

Re-admitted: Nelson Mandela.

Critical: Nelson Mandela. Photo: Getty Images

President Jacob Zuma broke the news after visiting Mr Mandela on Sunday evening and was told by doctors ‘‘that the former president’s condition had become critical over the past 24 hours’’.

Mr Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, is due to celebrate his 95th birthday on July 18.

He has been admitted to hospital four times since December, mostly for the pulmonary condition that has plagued him for years.

Mr Zuma moved to assure the country that doctors were doing all they could to save his life.

‘‘The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well-looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands,’’ Mr Zuma said, using the revered leader’s clan name.

‘‘The doctors also dismissed the media reports that Madiba suffered cardiac arrest. There is no truth at all in that report,’’ Mr Zuma said.

Mr Zuma was accompanied to the hospital by the ruling ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.

The two also met Mr Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, at the hospital and discussed the condition of the Nobel peace laureate.

Mr Zuma appealed to South Africans and people worldwide to pray for Mr Mandela, his family and the medical personnel attending to him ‘‘during this difficult time’’.

With the latest hospitalisation, many South Africans have come to terms with the much-loved hero’s fragility.

The announcement come after unconfirmed media reports that Mr Mandela’s condition was worse than authorities and relatives had been saying in recent days.

US news channel CBS had at the weekend given details of failing organs and said that Mr Mandela was ‘‘unresponsive’’ and ‘‘has not opened his eyes for days’’.

But authorities had refused to comment on the speculation.

It also emerged that the military intensive care ambulance that rushed Mr Mandela to hospital in the early hours of June 8 developed engine trouble, resulting in a 40-minute delay until a replacement ambulance arrived.

The presidency said that Mr Mandela suffered no harm during the wait for another ambulance to take him from his Johannesburg home to a specialist heart clinic in Pretoria 55 kilometres away.

The African National Congress said it ‘‘has noted with concern’’ that Mr Mandela’s condition had worsened.

‘‘The African National Congress joins the presidency in calling upon all of us to keep president Mandela, his family and his medical team in our thoughts and prayers during this trying time.’’

AFP