South Africans lit candles outside the hospital where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela lay Wednesday night amid a report that the former president was on life support.
An official briefed on his condition said he was on life support, but government spokesman Mac Maharaj declined to comment on the report, citing doctor-patient confidentiality.
Mandela, 94, considered the founding father of South Africa’s multiracial democracy, has been hospitalized since June 8 for a recurring lung infection.
Authorities have described his condition as critical since Sunday, and after visiting him late Wednesday night, President Jacob Zuma canceled his visit to Mozambique where he was supposed to attend a summit Thursday on infrastructure investment. As the nation remained on edge, police barricaded the street leading to the hospital’s main entrance. Well-wishers hung balloons, stuffed animals and messages of support along the wall, and crowds hovering nearby sang “Where is Mandela?”
People gather and pray for Mandela Daughter: He is at peace The whole world prays for one man:
“We need you!,” one sign read. “We love you tata, get well soon!” said another, referring to Mandela by the Xhosa word for father.
“He’s going to feel a lot better when he sees these signs,” said David Manaway, Mandela’s grandson-in-law. His former physician and the nation’s ex-surgeon general, Dr. Vejay Ramlakan, also visited the hospital Wednesday, said the national news agency, South African Press Association.
Mandela became an international figure while enduring 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid, the country’s system of racial segregation. He was elected the nation’s first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed.
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