South Africans hold vigil outside hospital treating Nelson Mandela

“But I think for us, as his children and
grandchildren, we still have this hope because
you know when we talk to him, he will flutter
[his eyelids] trying to open his eyes and will
open his eyes. When you touch him, he still
responds. And I think for us as his progeny, as
long as Tata is still responding when we talk to
him, when we touch him, I think that gives us
The twists and turns of Mandela's illness have
been followed with such intensity by global
media that it sometimes seems the world is at
his bedside, monitoring each turn for the better
or worse. But the glare has left his family
uncomfortable and upset by reporting they
have found intrusive, inappropriate and even
racist, according to Makaziwe.
She implied that foreign journalists failed to
respect the boundaries of distance and respect
appropriate in African culture with the illness of
a great, revered leader.
"There's sort of a racist element with many of
the foreign media, where they just cross
boundaries. It's truly like vultures waiting when
the lion has devoured the buffalo, waiting there
for the last of the carcass. That's the image we
have as a family," she said angrily.
She said it was natural for people to be
interested "but I just feel that it has gone
overboard," and pointed out that there was no
international media frenzy when former British
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was
hospitalized. She called for the public to
respect Mandela's privacy.
"If people say they really care about Nelson
Mandela, then they should respect that. They
should respect that there is a part of him that
has to be respected," said Makaziwe,
Mandela's eldest daughter.
South African President Jacob Zuma also
expressed concern about media coverage and
rumor, after an Australian government minister
was forced to apologize for prematurely
declaring that Mandela had died.
"The presidency is disturbed by the rumors that
are being spread about former President
Mandela's health. We appeal for respect for the
privacy and dignity of the former president,"
Zuma said.
For many South Africans, there's a sense that
outsiders can't hope to understand the
situation they face as Mandela's health fades
and the nation begins to confront the loss of its
greatest hero.
One columnist, Alex Eliseev, wrote that just
hearing that Mandela was in critical condition
was painful.
"While the reality is setting in, the word critical
still feels like a punch in the gut," he wrote.
Thursday saw yet another change in Mandela's
condition. Zuma's spokesman, Mac Maharaj,
said Mandela's health had deteriorated further
in the previous 48 hours, prompting Zuma to
cancel a scheduled trip to Mozambique for a
regional summit.
Zuma visited the elder statesmen again on
Thursday, his third visit in a week, and
reported an improvement.
Mandela remained in critical condition "but is
now stable" he said.
"I canceled my visit to Mozambique today so
that I could see him and confer with the
doctors. He is much better today than he was
when I saw him last night. The medical team
continues to do a sterling job. "
Zuma urged people to keep thinking of Mandela
and praying for him, also referring to him as
Tata, which means "father" and is used by
many South Africans as a term of affection for
"We must pray for Tata's health and wish him
well. We must also continue with our work and
daily activities while Madiba remains
hospitalized," Zuma said.
Mandela's African National Congress party
arranged a series of prayer meetings around
the country. The ANC Youth League and other
ANC members gathered outside the Pretoria
hospital where Mandela is being treated, and
later outside his former Soweto home.
Local and international media have reported
that Mandela is on life support, which South
African officials have declined to confirm,
saying it breaches patient-doctor
Despite Mandela's poor health, Zuma is
preparing for the arrival of President Obama
late Friday.
"This is a significant visit which will take
political, economic and people-to-people
relations between the two countries to a higher
level, while also enhancing cooperation
between the U.S. and the African continent at
large," Zuma said in a statement Thursday.