South Africa’s anti-apartheid Icon Nelson Mandela, battling for life with a recurring lung infection, completed two months of hospitalisation, even as his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela said the 95-year-old statesman was now “breathing normally”.
Doctors had managed to contain his lung infection, but kept draining fluid from the lungs, Ms. Winnie told Sky News in an interview. “He is now breathing normally,” she said.
The ex-South African president remains in a “critical but stable” condition at Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria after being admitted on June 8 with the lung infection.
However, there was no official word on Friday on the medical condition of Mandela, who turned 95 on July 18.
During the interview, Ms. Winnie spoke of the strain of his long illness on the whole family and how hurtful continued reports of his demise have been.
“It’s so cruel,” she said. “All around us we see people erecting scaffolding, preparing for a funeral. He has been pre-deceased.”
“Do people not think of our emotions?”
“For those of us who know him, who know his strength, it is very hard,” Ms. Winnie said.
But she said despite being critically ill, his eyes still “lit up” when his children entered the room to see him. “That is how he communicates with them,” she said.
She also denied the reports that Mandela was in a permanent vegetative state. “Why would we conceal that?” she asked.
Mandela had a long history of lung problems, dating back to the time when he was a political prisoner on Robben Island during apartheid. While in jail he contracted tuberculosis.
Mandela is revered for leading the fight against white minority rule in the African country and then preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.
Mandela, regarded the founding father of South Africa’s multi-racial democracy, served as the country’s first black president from 1994 to 1999.
He left power after five years as president. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
He retired from public life in 2004 and has rarely been seen at official events since.