Mandela admitted in hospital amid speculation over health

Last Updated: Thursday, January 27, 2011 - 21:18

Johannesburg: Former South African
President Nelson Mandela has been admitted to a hospital
for a medical checkup, amid growing speculation over the
health of the anti-apartheid hero.

Visitors, including top ANC officials, continued to
flock to the Milpark Hospital here for a second day as Nobel
Laureate Mandela, 92, remained under observation for "routine
tests", as stated by his Foundation.

President Jacob Zuma called for calm as the nation
awaited updates on the ailing leader`s condition.

"President Mandela is comfortable and is well looked
after by a good team of medical specialists," Zuma said in a
statement from Davos, from the World Economic Forum meet.

"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 ruling ANC party called for calm, urging South
Africans "not to press any panic buttons".

"We call on all South Africans to remain calm
regarding the hospitalisation of Madiba and not press any
panic buttons, as there is no reason for that whatsoever," ANC
spokesman Jackson Mthembu said.

"If there is any change in the hospitalisation of
Madiba, including his discharge from hospital, (it) will be
communicated."

South Africans prayed for the health of anti-apartheid
hero Nelson Mandela as children at a local school have hung
messages of support outside the Milpark Hospital.

The democracy icon - known affectionately among South
Africans by his clan name, Madiba - has appeared increasingly
frail on his infrequent public appearances since retiring from
public life in 2004.

His last public appearance was at the football World
Cup closing ceremony last July. Privately his friends have
warned that his health has begun to deteriorate more rapidly
in recent months, according to the BBC.

Several of Mandela`s family members, including his
wife Graca Machel, were seen visiting the hospital on last
night.

In a statement, the Nelson Mandela Foundation insisted
Mandela was "in no danger and is in good spirits". It said he
was undergoing routine tests, though South African media
report he is being seen by a lung specialist.

Earlier rumours had started on social networks that
Mandela was very ill, some even declaring that the leader had
died.

Neither the Mandela family nor the hospital would
provide any details of what was ailing the iconic leader who
led South Africa to democracy.

The only official statement was a brief one from the
Nelson Mandela Foundation, which said Mandela was "in no
danger and in good spirits." ANC spokesperson Brian Sokhutu said that some
senior leaders of the ANC would shortly visit Mandela
after consulting the family as he repeated a call to South
Africans to avoid undue panic about the leader`s health.

A spokesman for President Jacob Zuma, who was in
Davos at the World Economic Forum, said he had no plans to
return early in view of Mandela`s hospitalisation.

A huge contingent of local and foreign media has
been camping out at vantage points on the periphery of the
hospital, especially on a motorway bridge overlooking the
facility.

Local police removed them from the bridge, yesterday,
citing danger to themselves and passing motorists.

Thorough checks are also being conducted on vehicles
entering the hospital premises, including examining the trunks
for possible hidden journalists trying to sneak into the
hospital.

Social networks are being flooded with messages of
goodwill for Mandela, with a poignant message from his
granddaughter Zoleka Mandela on Facebook being widely
circulated.

"I really hate to see you this way. It kills me each
time. Know that I`m here for you as I believe you have always
been for me. We are all with you every step of the way.

Spending my next few days with you just so I know
that you`ll be OK. I`m saddened," read the message.

Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994
to 1999, and was the first South African president to be
elected in a fully representative democratic election.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, January 27, 2011 - 21:18

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