Mandela discharged from hospital

Former South African President Nelson Mandela was whisked home Friday from a hospital where the 92-year-old had been treated for a respiratory infection, with only a glimpse of his head covered by a surgical cap visible as he was wheeled into an ambulance.

That brief view could symbolize Mandela's increasing disengagement from public life. South Africans expressed joy Friday that he is recovering but there was also wistful realization that an icon is fading. Officials said Mandela now would be cared for in hospital-like conditions at home.



"Everyone was holding their hearts and saying not now," said Patricia Ramaila, who has lived across the street from Mandela for four years. "A person like Mr. Mandela — we still need him."



Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president after serving 27 years in prison for his fight against racist rule, largely retired from public life in 2004. He has made even fewer appearances in recent years while others like retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu have increasingly taken on the role of South Africa's national conscience.



Army Surgeon-General Vejaynand Ramlakan said Friday that Mandela's condition was stable, and that he takes medication for a chronic, unnamed condition and needs help to walk. Officials said he was joking with his wife and nurses, and in good spirits.



"Despite all of this, his amazing positive attitude allows him to cope with the difficulties of old age with the greatest of grace," Ramlakan said.



Mandela himself has pushed his fellow South Africans to think beyond him. At his insistence, his foundation switched from a logo featuring his face to one featuring his hands, reflecting his desire to shift the focus from himself.



When he reached 91, his July 18 birthday was declared Mandela Day, and he urged people to observe it by painting schools, reading to the elderly and taking on other tasks to build their communities.



"It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it," Mandela said then.



A dearth of updates since Mandela was admitted Wednesday afternoon had led to speculation and concern about his condition. Journalists camped outside the hospital and his Johannesburg home. Officials said Friday that Mandela's office has received more than 10,000 messages of support and well wishes, including from U.S. President Barack Obama.



Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is in charge while President Jacob Zuma is traveling abroad, said communications should have been better.



"Madiba has received similar checkups in the past and it's never raised the same public panic it has now," Motlanthe said, explaining why officials had not been prepared. South Africans affectionately call the 92-year-old Madiba, his clan's name.



The army surgeon-general told reporters that Mandela's respiratory infection was acute, but that he was being sent home after about 48 hours at Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital. The army is charged with the care of former presidents in South Africa.



Mandela also had a respiratory infection eight years ago and also had contracted tuberculosis in 1988 while in prison, Ramlakan said. Mandela has written in his memoirs that the bout of TB did not damage his lungs. In 1985, Mandela also had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland.



Ramlakan would not say whether Mandela's most recent infection was in the upper or lower regions of his respiratory tract.



Acute respiratory infections refer to a range of diseases that could include the common cold, flu, strep throat or bronchitis, among other illnesses. Treatment generally lasts seven to 10 days.



An infection of the lower respiratory tract could signal pneumonia, which could require greater care. Many elderly patients with pneumonia are often treated at home with oral antibiotics, fluids, and possibly steroid drugs to reduce inflammation in the lungs.



Mandela was released in 1990 after 27 years in prison for his fight against apartheid. He became South Africa's first black president in 1994 and stepped down after serving one term in 1999.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project