Two South African businessmen on Tuesday released 100 white doves into the air outside the hospital where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela is fighting for his life.
“It symbolises that fact the we need to have love as South Africans, we need to have peace in South Africa,” well-wisher Thomas Toutts said.
Flowers, balloons and messages of support piled up outside the Pretoria hospital where 94-year-old Mandela was admitted on June 8 with a recurrent lung infection.
“We feel this is the right place, where our father of the nation is lying in hospital,” said Toutts, a tax consultant and events manager who also breeds doves.
His business partner Calvern Hugo said their gesture was to recognise Mandela’s contribution to the country’s freedom. “We are really appreciative of what you have done for us as a nation. What you have done will echo throughout the generations to come,” he said, in words intended for the elderly statesman.
The gesture came after relatives and chief members of Mandela’s clan gathered for a meeting at his rural home in Qunu, Eastern Cape province, on Tuesday morning.
Among those who arrived at the homestead were his grandson Mandla Mandela and other family members, Thanduxolo Mandela, Ndaba Mandela, and Ndileka Mandela.
A South Africa Press Association correspondent said the meeting followed an “urgent call” reportedly made by the former president’s children and quoted Napilisi Mandela, an elder in the Mandela family, as saying the meeting was being called “to discuss delicate matters.”
In an interview on Monday, Mandela’s other daughter, Makaziwe, said she believed her father was “at peace with himself.”
Asked if the family should “let him go,” she said they wouldn’t because he had not asked them to.
Tuesday’s news of Mandela’s unchanged condition deepened the sense of gloom among a 50-strong crowd of well-wishers gathered outside the Pretoria hospital where Mandela is being treated.
Mingling with television reporters, they strained to hear the details of reports on the health of a man they knows as “Tata Mandala” — Father Mandela.
The perimeter wall of the hospital is now plastered with goodwill messages. Early Tuesday, more than 100 white doves were released – a symbol of peace for the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
“It’s a mix of emotion, because he’s feeling pain. But on the other side we want him to survive”, said Nhlanhla Mhlong. “If he cannot survive then we want him to be released from the pain.”
No Mandela visit for Obama
US President Barack Obama's South African schedule does not include a visit to former president Nelson Mandela. “President Obama would have loved to see Madiba,” said international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. “In my country, at my age and your age, when people are ill-disposed, we try to give them space to recover,” she said of Mandela, who is in a critical condition in the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria.