Zuma asks South Africa to pray for Nelson Mandela, who remains in critical condition

Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, has been hospitalized for almost three weeks with a respiratory infection. He is now in critical condition in a hospital in Pretoria after his health deteriorated over the weekend:

The office of South African President Jacob Zuma said that he and ruling African National Congress deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa visited Mandela, 94, on Sunday evening and that doctors informed them that Mandela’s condition had turned critical in the past 24 hours.

“The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well-looked after and is comfortable,” Zuma said in an e-mailed statement, referring to Mandela by his clan name. “He is in good hands.”

For the past 17 days, Mandela has been receiving care at a medical facility in Pretoria, the South African capital — the fourth time he has been hospitalized since December. But there was little indication that his condition had become critical. As of Saturday, the South African government had characterized his condition as “serious but stable.”

The apartheid regime imprisoned Mandela for 27 years, releasing him in 1990. He became the nation’s first black president following South Africa’s first multiracial elections in 1994, won by the African National Congress. Mandela has not been seen in public since the World Cup soccer tournament was held in South Africa in 2010.

Sudarsan Raghavan

Zuma said Monday that as doctors do what they can for Mandela, the rest of the country should pray for him:

“All of us in the country should accept the fact that Madiba is now old,” Zuma told reporters in Johannesburg, referring to Mandela by his clan name. “As he ages, his health will . . . trouble him, and I think what we need to do as a country is to pray for him.”

Zuma described the former South African president as being “asleep” when he visited him Sunday evening, accompanied by ruling African National Congress deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mandela’s hospitalization, said Zuma, is not expected to affect an official visit on Friday by President Obama, who this week embarks on his first substantial presidential visit to Africa. In addition to South Africa, he will stop in Senegal and Tanzania.

Sudarsan Raghavan

Obama could meet with Mandela’s relatives while he is in South Africa if they feel that a visit would be appropriate, Obama’s aides said last week. For past coverage of Mandela’s hospitalization, continue reading here.

Max Ehrenfreund writes for Wonkblog and compiles Wonkbook, a daily policy newsletter. You can subscribe here. Before joining The Washington Post, Ehrenfreund wrote for the Washington Monthly and The Sacramento Bee.

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