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Nelson Mandela on Life Support

Former South African president's condition continues to deteriorate.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/27/2013, 3:13 AM

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Reuters

Nelson Mandela is on life support, CBS News reported on Wednesday.

The former South African president's condition has worsened over the last couple of days. Well-wishers and supporters continued Wednesday to gather outside of the Pretoria hospital where the former South African president has been receiving treatment for nearly three weeks.

South African president Jacob Zuma canceled a Thursday trip amid worry about Mandela’s health, according to the report.

On Sunday, President Jacob Zuma said the 94-year-old former leader is "well-looked after and is comfortable" but the South African government has been relatively tight-lipped regarding Mandela's health status.

The South African president canceled a Thursday trip to Maputo, the Mozambican capital, where he was to attend a meeting on regional investment.

South Africans were torn on Wednesday between the desire not to lose a critically ill Nelson Mandela, who defined the aspirations of so many of his compatriots, and resignation that the beloved former prisoner and president is approaching the end of his life.

The sense of anticipation and foreboding about Mandela's fate has grown since late Sunday, when the South African government declared that the condition of the statesman, who was rushed to a hospital in Pretoria on June 8, had deteriorated.

A tide of emotional tributes has built on social media and in hand-written messages and flowers laid outside the hospital and Mandela's home. On Wednesday, about 20 children from a day care center posted a hand-made card outside the hospital and recited a poem, reported CBS.

In recent days, international leaders, celebrities, athletes and others have praised Mandela, not just as the man who steered South Africa through its tense transition from white racist rule to democracy two decades ago, but as a universal symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation.

In 1993, Mandela and then-South African President F.W. de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The iconic leader was elected the nation's first black president a year later, serving only one term, as he had promised.

Even as he has faded from the spotlight, he remains popular and is considered a hero of democracy in the nation. Last year, South Africa launched a new batch of banknotes with a picture of a smiling Mandela on the front.

Mandela's impact extends far beyond South African borders. After he left office, he mediated conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.

He has in the past criticized the U.S. through Israel, hinting in 2003 that then- President George W. Bush had no foresight because “Their friend Israel has got weapons of mass destruction, but because it’s their ally they won’t ask the U.N. to get rid of it. They just want the oil.”

Mandela also said once that “if the Palestinians are not free, no one is free”, a statement which anti-Israel groups have taken advantage of to accuse Israel of applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Arabs.