Mandela’s Condition Has Become Critical, Presidency Says

Nelson Mandela’s condition has deteriorated to “critical” after more than two weeks in a hospital in the South African capital, Pretoria, President Jacob Zuma said.

Mandela, 94, was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit on June 8 to receive treatment for a recurring lung infection, the fourth time he’d been hospitalized since December. Known by his clan name Madiba, Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

“Doctors are doing everything to ensure his well-being and comfort,” Zuma, who visited Mandela last night, told reporters in Johannesburg today. “The country must accept that Madiba is very old” and his health will trouble him as he ages.

Mandela spent 27 years in prison for opposing white minority rule under apartheid, which ended after the ruling African National Congress won elections in 1994. He won the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk, the last leader of South Africa in the apartheid era, in 1993. Mandela stood down after five years and was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.

Zuma was accompanied on his visit to the hospital yesterday by Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of the ANC, and was briefed by the medical team, Zuma said. They also met with Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel. Mandela was sleeping at the time, he said.

Ambulance Breakdown

“The fact that the doctors are saying that he has deteriorated from a serious condition to critical should be sobering to all of us,” Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj told reporters in Johannesburg today.

Makaziwe Mandela, the former leader’s daughter, told Atlanta-based CNN in an interview that he’s “at peace with himself.” She said she’s praying “that the transition is smooth,” according to CNN, which interviewed her before the Presidency published a statement yesterday on Mandela’s condition.

On June 22, the Presidency confirmed a CBS News report that an ambulance transporting Mandela to the hospital on June 8 broke down.

The seven doctors who accompanied Mandela on his trip to the hospital were in control of the situation and his health wasn’t compromised, Zuma said. Maharaj said the ambulance breakdown caused a 15-minute delay until a replacement vehicle arrived, refuting the CBS report that it took about 40 minutes. He also denied that Mandela suffered a cardiac arrest when he was rushed to the hospital, as reported by CBS.

The ANC said in a statement yesterday it’s concerned that Mandela’s health deteriorated and is “calling upon all of us to keep President Mandela, his family and his medical team in our thoughts and prayers during this trying time.”

A state visit by U.S. President Barack Obama starting on June 28 won’t be affected by Mandela’s hospitalization, Zuma said.