Mandela’s still rising in the sun

Nelson Mandela, the beloved but increasingly frail hero of South African democracy, remained hospitalized for a second day here on Thursday for what his foundation called “routine tests.”

As friends and family filed into Milpark Hospital to visit Mr. Mandela, 92, the nation’s current president and leaders of the governing party, the African National Congress, sought to calm an anxious public. They also scolded the press for what a party spokesman, Jackson Mthembu, called “unwarranted speculation” about Mr. Mandela’s health.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a brief statement Wednesday, “He is in no danger and is in good spirits.” And President Jacob Zuma’s office said Thursday that Mr. Mandela “is comfortable and is well looked after by a good team of medical specialists.”

But neither the foundation nor the government has released specific information about the reason for Mr. Mandela’s hospitalization, or why he remained there overnight. Instead, they have issued pleas to the public to respect Mr. Mandela’s privacy.

Mr. Zuma, who was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was being kept fully briefed on Mr. Mandela’s care, his office said.

“We urge the media to afford him the dignity and respect that he is entitled to as the country’s founding democratic president, as a national hero and also as a citizen of the republic,” the office said.

But even as officials tried to quiet the feverish news coverage of Mr. Mandela’s hospitalization, the sight of his grandchildren, senior politicians and former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, coming to his bedside stirred speculation that his condition might be more serious than officials were willing to confirm. Ms. Madikizela-Mandela wiped tears from her eyes as she left the hospital Thursday afternoon, according to a report by the South African Press Association.

For years, rumors have swirled about Mr. Mandela’s health. His public appearances have become less and less frequent, and friends say he is thin, tires easily and has little appetite. He last appeared in July at the closing ceremony of the World Cup soccer tournament. His foundation regularly pleads with the public to leave him in peace.

But the curiosity about his medical condition persists. Last month, the African National Congress denounced a report on Twitter that Mr. Mandela had died. “It is only people without a soul who would spread such lies about our living icon,” Mr. Mthembu said at the time.

 

Copyright 2011 by The New York Times

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