Nelson Mandela's daughter said her father was in a “stable but critical” condition and still responding to touch after visiting him in hospital today. Makaziwe Mandela said the former president of South Africa “tries to open his eyes” when we talk to him but warned that “anything is imminent”.
Her visit followed news that the anti-apartheid icon was on life support and that President Jacob Zuma had cancelled a short visit to Mozambique. Mr Zuma visited the Pretoria hospital again today but declined to speak to the media on departure. After nearly three weeks in hospital undergoing treatment for a recurring lung infection his condition was revealed last night to have worsened significantly.
"Over the past 48 hours, the condition of former president Madiba has gone down," presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told South Africa's state broadcaster SABC, using Mr Mandela's popular clan name. The spokesman refused to confirm or deny that the country's first democratically elected president was on life support, saying to do so would violate doctor-patient ethics.
As South Africa prepared to say goodbye to the 94-yea-old, a clan elder from his home area in Eastern Cape who had visited the Nobel Peace laureate said he was on life support.
“Yes, he is using machines to breathe," Napilisi Mandela told Agence France Press after visiting the anti-apartheid hero. "It is bad, but what can we do."
The life support system raises the thorny question of whether Mr Mandela's passing would be a decision to be made rather than a natural event. And if so who would make that decision.
His wife Graca Machel, the former first lady of Mozambique, and his eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, have been the most prominent family members during the struggle icon's twenty days in hospital. South Africa's presidency, who have responsibility for funeral arrangements in the event of his death, are consumed with the imminent arrival of US President Barack Obama who lands in Johannesburg on Friday evening.