The unusual silence attending the nature of former South African leader Nelson Mandela following his admission in Hospital and the resultant worries expressed by South Africans have been doused with the announcement on Tuesday morning that the octogenarian is suffering from recurring lung infection.
Media and the public at large have been put in suspense for about four days since Mandela was transferred to a Military Hospital in Pretoria as the government and the hospital authorities have kept mum over the actual reason for his long stay in hospital despite public anxiety.
South African Media since the weekend have run editorials claiming that Mandela as a public figure of international stature should not be shielded from the people asking about the nature of his ailment. He has been visited by several top government functionaries since weekend among them South African President, Mr Jacob Zuma.
However, it emerged on Tuesday morning that a recurring lung infection had kept him on the admission bed in a Military Hospital in Pretoria.
The real picture of Mandela’s current state Monday night when his Mozambican-born wife Graca revealed that Madiba (as he is popularly referred to by South Africans) sparkle is fading due to his health condition.
Mandela, 94, in hospital since Saturday for tests is now said to be responding to treatment.
The revered anti-apartheid leader and Nobel Peace laureate remains a hero to many of South Africa’s 52 million people. He has been linked to hospital visit and two brief stretches in hospital in the last two years has made front page news.
“Doctors have concluded the tests, and these have revealed a recurrence of a previous lung infection, for which Madiba is receiving appropriate treatment and he is responding to the treatment,” the government said in a statement.
Mandela, whose clan name is ‘Madiba’, was admitted to the Pretoria military hospital on Saturday after being flown from his home village of Qunu, which is in a remote, rural part of the Eastern Cape province.
In an interview late on Monday with South Africa’s eNCA television channel, Mandela’s Mozambican-born wife Graca said the former president’s “sparkle” was fading.
When he was admitted to hospital on Saturday, officials stressed there was no cause for concern although domestic media reports suggested senior members of the government and people close to him had been caught unawares.
Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and a global symbol of resistance to racism and injustice, spent 27 years in apartheid prisons, including 18 years on the windswept Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town.
He was released in 1990 and went on to be elected president in the historic all-race elections in 1994 that ended white-minority rule in Africa’s most important economy.
He used his unparalleled prestige to push for reconciliation between whites and blacks, setting up a commission to probe crimes committed by both sides in the anti-apartheid struggle.
Mandela’s African National Congress has continued to govern since his retirement from politics in 1999, but has been criticised for perceived corruption and slowness in addressing apartheid-era inequalities in housing, education and healthcare.
Mandela spent time in a Johannesburg hospital in 2011 with a respiratory condition, and again in February this year because of abdominal pains. He was released the following day after a keyhole examination showed there was nothing serious.
He has since spent most of his time in Qunu.
His fragile health prevents him from making any public appearances in South Africa, although he has continued to receive high-profile domestic and international visitors, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton in July.