Nelson Mandela, the revered former president of South Africa, has been in a Pretoria hospital for 10 days, his fourth hospitalization since December. His health is reportedly improving:
One of Mandela’s daughters, Zenani Dlamini, gave what appeared to be the most positive update yet on his situation as she looked at well-wishers’ cards hanging outside the hospital.
“He’s doing very well,” she told reporters without giving any more details . . .
The leader of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, Mandela spent 27 years in prison during white racist rule. He is vulnerable to respiratory problems since contracting tuberculosis during his long imprisonment. The bulk of that period was spent on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town where Mandela and other prisoners toiled in a dusty stone quarry.
South Africa’s current president also said over the weekend that Mandela was getting better:
President Jacob Zuma said Mandela remains in serious condition but that over the last two days his doctors have said that the improvements in his health have been sustained.
Zuma said Mandela “continues to engage with family,” according to the prepared text of a speech released by the president’s office. Family members are visiting Mandela daily.
One aspect of Mandela’s legacy as a lifelong opponent of the apartheid government was visible over the weekend as a black athlete made his debut on the South African national rugby team, the Springboks:
The team has selected black players before and has long moved past the all-white squads of the apartheid years, but the story of Siya Kolisi resonates in its own way . . .
Kolisi is from the Zwide township in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape province, the kind of poor region Mandela wanted South African rugby to reach. Kolisi embodied the hope that the Springboks would reinvent themselves as a team that celebrated South Africa’s diversity and no longer contributed to its divisions.
“It’ll be a special day tomorrow for Siya. I think it’s a great story. I think it’s a great success story,” South Africa captain Jean de Villiers said Friday. “I think it is South Africa in a nutshell, hey? Someone that didn’t have the opportunities that maybe I had growing up.”
Kolisi and De Villiers represent something Mandela hoped for from the Springboks when he famously embraced the team at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. But their paths to this point couldn’t have been more different. Kolisi fought to be recognized playing in Zwide, a rugby backwater, while De Villiers attended Stellenbosch University, one of South Africa’s most famous rugby academies.
Zolani Mkiva, the singer who accompanied Mandela for many years, spoke to the Associated Press in Johannesburg about his memories of the former president:
“People came to know me as Nelson Mandela’s poet laureate because I had travelled with him throughout the country, the length and breadth of the country, singing his praises. Telling the people who he is, from a cultural perspective,” said Mkiva.
Praise singing is a tradition in many African countries, a way of paying tribute to people through verse and music. The art — known locally as ukubonga — has been passed down through the generations in his own family . . .
Mkiva says despite Mandela being a world-revered statesman, he has remained very humble — and used to even make jokes at his own expense. Mandela is also a very good storyteller, Mkiva said.
“He has a way of putting a story to you. And you, sort of, feel that this story happened when you were there,” he said.
And Mkiva has warm words for Mandela as he battles a recurring lung infection in a Pretoria hospital.
“But even if he’s going for a check-up, people are always suspicious that maybe something is wrong,” he said. “We believe that he is a great fighter. He will fight all the struggles and he always come out as a victor.”
For past coverage of Mandela’s illness, continue reading here.