JOHANNESBURG: South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he is praying for a prompt recovery for former leader Nelson Mandela, who has been hospitalized for more than two weeks.
Radio 702, a South African station, yesterday broadcast an interview with Tutu in which he says he exchanged telephone text messages about Mandela with the anti-apartheid icon’s wife, Graca Machel.
Mandela who is 94, has been hospitalized since Dec. 8. He was diagnosed with a lung infection and also had gallstone surgery. Officials say his condition has improved.
Tutu and Mandela are Nobel laureates because of their role in the struggle against white minority rule. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years and served one five-year term as president after he was elected in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.
A presidential aide declined yesterday to give any update on his current state of health.
The ailing anti-apartheid icon is receiving treatment for a recurring lung infection and has also had a procedure to remove gallstones.
“We all wish that he could be home for Christmas, but first and foremost he needs to get better,” presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told AFP.
“At this stage there is no update on his condition and his doctors have given no indication about when Madiba will be discharged,” Maharaj said, using Mandela’s clan name.
Only President Jacob Zuma’s office is tasked with issuing updates about the health of the revered elder statesman.
Zuma visited Mandela on Saturday and but did not reveal details about his condition except to say that he was “responding to treatment.”
Zuma had told delegates at the end of the ruling ANC’s party conference on Thursday that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s condition was serious when he was admitted to hospital but said he was a fighter.
“Madiba is an unparalleled fighter and has always been so. He has met all his health challenges with his tremendous fortitude and grace.” This is the longest time Mandela has spent in hospital since being released from prison in 1990 after 27 years.
He was previously hospitalized for an acute respiratory infection in January 2011, when he was kept as an inpatient for two nights.
He became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after the end of apartheid, and stepped down in 1999 after spending one term in office.
Official reports about his treatment have not revealed much information about the seriousness of Mandela’s condition nor details about the sort of treatment he is undergoing.
A government official initially said Mandela was being cared for at the One Military hospital outside Pretoria, the country’s top military facility. Press reports later said he was at the private Mediclinic Heart Hospital in the capital, but this has not been confirmed by the government.
Radio 702 reported that security is tight outside the Mediclinic.