x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Nelson Mandela allowed to leave hospital

Anti-apartheid hero sent home after three months in intensive care with lung infection but his condition is said to be 'critical'.

An ambulance carrying Nelson Mandela arrives at his house in Johannesburg.
An ambulance carrying Nelson Mandela arrives at his house in Johannesburg.

JOHANNESBURG // Nelson Mandela was discharged from hospital yesterday, though still in critical condition.

On a sunny but cold morning, an ambulance took the 95-year-old anti-apartheid leader to his Johannesburg home, where he will receive intensive care.

Mr Mandela had been in hospital for nearly three months, after being admitted on June 8 for what the government described as a recurring lung infection.

His condition "is at times unstable", Jacob Zuma, the South African president, said yesterday.

"His home has been reconfigured to allow him to receive intensive care there. The healthcare personnel providing care at his home are the very same who provided care to him in hospital.

"If there are health conditions that warrant another admission to hospital in future, this will be done."

Mr Zuma's office said that during his stay in hospital Mr Mandela "vacillated between serious to critical, and at times unstable" and that "despite the difficulties imposed by his various illnesses, he, as always, displays immense grace and fortitude".

Referring to Mr Mandela by his clan name, it added: "Madiba has been treated by a large medical team from the military, academia, private sector and other public-health spheres.

"We thank all the health professionals at the hospital for their dedication."

The government has released few details about Mr Mandela's condition, citing patient confidentiality and appealing for his privacy and dignity to be respected.

Still, rumours and unconfirmed reports about Mr Mandela's health have persisted on social media and other forums, fuelled in part by a feud within the Mandela family.

In a court case stemming from a family dispute over burial sites, some members of his extended family recently said in court documents that Mr Mandela was being kept alive by a breathing machine and faced "impending death".

That account was disputed by Mr Zuma's office, which denied Mr Mandela was "vegetative" but acknowledged that his condition was grave.

Mr Mandela has been particularly vulnerable to respiratory problems since contracting tuberculosis during his 27-year imprisonment. The bulk of that period was spent on Robben Island, a prison off the coast of Cape Town where he and other apartheid-era prisoners spent part of the time toiling in a limestone quarry.

There has been an outpouring of concern in South Africa and worldwide for the transformative figure who led the tense shift from the white-minority rule of apartheid to democracy two decades ago in a spirit of reconciliation.

Mr Zuma urged South Africans to accept that Mr Mandela had grown old and frail, saying all they could do was pray for him.

While in hospital, well-wishers sent him flowers and messages of support, and prayer sessions were held around the country.

Mr Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is feted around the world as a towering figure of reconciliation. Despite being jailed for his prominent role in opposing white racist rule, Mr Mandela was seemingly free of rancour on his release in 1990, becoming the unifying leader who steered South Africa through a delicate transition to all-race elections that propelled him to the presidency four years later.

The United Nations has recognised Mr Mandela's birthday, July 18, as an international day to honour themes of activism, democracy and responsibility embodied by the former leader.