Nelson Mandela, who has now been hospitalized for more than a month in Pretoria, remains in critical condition. South African President Jacob Zuma visited the revered leader of the struggle against apartheid Wednesday evening:

“We are encouraged that Madiba is responding to treatment and urge the public to continue providing support and showering him with love which gives him and the family strength,” Zuma said in a statement that referred to Mandela by his clan name.

Mandela was hospitalized June 8 for what the government said was a recurring lung infection, and his condition has been critical for over two weeks. . .

South Africa has made great strides since its official policy of apartheid, a government policy that favored white South Africans. But great inequalities remain, fueling racial tension in the country.

“I would say what we’re struggling with today is the gross inequalities that we’ve inherited that will take generations to overcome, and people are understandably resentful,” Denis Goldberg, Mandela’s friend who was jailed for two decades for fighting against apartheid said at an anniversary event this week.

Associated Press

Earlier this week, an old friend of Mandela’s visited him in the hospital:

Ahmed Kathrada, a warhorse of the anti-apartheid struggle, was allowed just a few minutes at the hospital bedside of his critically ill comrade. . . It was, he said, a traumatic experience to see the former president, physically robust during their prison years together, in such a fragile state.

Mandela could not speak but his face “changed” and he recognized his visitor “through his eyes,” Kathrada said of the July 1 encounter, which was overseen protectively by Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel.

This is the image of Mandela that South Africans, and many people around the world, find hard to accept. The man who withstood 27 years in jail and led his country from conflict toward reconciliation, is as vulnerable as anyone his age, and monitored around the clock by doctors.

“All the years that we knew him, we knew him, somebody who was very conscious of his health, somebody who exercised in and outside of jail, regularly, and here you see a person who’s different. A shell of himself,” Kathrada, 83, said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press.

“It was an overwhelming feeling of sadness, and of course the unrealistic wish and prayer that he can be with us for longer and longer,” said Kathrada, who joined Mandela in pivotal events of the early campaign against minority white rule. The two first met in 1946, before apartheid was even implemented. . .

“He was a boxer, he was a gymnast, he was a very strong person,” Kathrada, a member of parliament after apartheid, said of Mandela. “In prison too, when we were working at the quarry with pick and shovels, we found difficulty... but he was strong enough to adjust to that quickly.”

Associated Press

Outside the hospital, a feud among members of Mandela’s family has developed over the graves of the former president’s children:

Nelson Mandela’s eldest grandson believed that he had a right, as the traditional heir to the anti-apartheid icon’s clan, to rebury the remains of three of Mandela’s children. But Mandela’s eldest daughter and other relatives went to court, using modern laws to restore the remains to their original place last week.

Then over the weekend, the king of Mandela’s abaThembu tribe vowed to “eject” the grandson, Mandla Mandela, from his position as a traditional chief, which would make him ineligible to lead Mandela’s clan. Mandla has said he would resist any such move.

As the 94-year-old former South African president remains critically ill but in stable condition, his family’s public feud over money, family authority and his legacy is also becoming a tussle over the control of his tribal lineage. It is a contest that pits two South Africas against each other — one ruled by culture and tradition, the other by a modern system of laws. Under African traditional codes, which are protected by South Africa’s constitution, who leads Mandela’s clan after his death stands to inherit his spiritual and financial legacy, potentially worth millions of dollars.

“The one who is designated as traditional leader is the one who is heir to Madiba’s estate,” said Phathekile Holomisa, head of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, referring to Mandela by his clan name. “Every child is interested in getting something from his or her parents’ estate.”

The family clash erupted into the public realm two weeks ago after Mandela’s relatives went to court to force Mandla to exhume the graves of three of the icon’s children. In 2011, Mandla had secretly removed the bones from Qunu, the village where his grandfather grew up, and brought them to Mvezo, where his grandfather was born.

Mandla, who is the chief of Mvezo, has been accused of attempting to have his grandfather buried there in order to claim his legacy and bring millions in tourist dollars and development to Mvezo.

In court, Mandla’s lawyers argued he was following African traditional laws when he moved the remains. As chief, he was the leader of the clan and allowed to make such decisions. . .

At the same time, Mandla sought to present himself as a traditionalist fighting the modern ways of his relatives. He spoke of how his grandfather convinced him to give up aspirations to become a deejay and businessman in order to become a traditional chief and his heir to lead the Madiba clan. He defended himself against allegations by his half-brother, Ndaba, that he was illegitimate and cannot be the chief of the clan. Mandla also tried to distance himself from relatives who he accused of using the Mandela brand for commercial purposes, and questioned whether some were even Mandelas.

Sudarsan Raghavan

For past coverage of Mandela’s illness, continue reading here.