Nelson Mandela appears to be able to hear family members, his eldest daughter said Thursday as concern grew about the ailing anti-apartheid icon’s condition.
Speaking to radio, Makaziwe Mandela said, “I won’t lie, it doesn’t look good. But as I say, if we speak to him, he responds and tries to open his eyes. He’s still there. He might be waning off, but he’s still there.”
Members of the former South African president’s family also thanked well-wishers around the world for their support.
“Sometimes it is very hard for all of us in the family,” said Swati Dlamini, one of Mandela’s 17 grandchildren. “We just appreciate that he’s loved.”
Relatives collected flowers from outside the Pretoria hospital where the country’s first democratically elected leader is being treated for a lung infection.
Members of a choir prayed and sang outside the building, as other people arrived to deliver flowers and messages of support for the 94-year-old.
One family member described Mandela’s condition as ‘stable.’ However, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told reporters that Mandela’s condition remained ‘critical’.
Mandela has already spent 20 days in the hospital, his fourth hospitalisation in six months.
Earlier, President Jacob Zuma cancelled a trip to Mozambique in an indication of heightened concern about Mandela, who is widely regarded as the father of the nation and whose health deteriorated last weekend. Members of the youth league of the country’s ruling party, the African National Congress, were planning prayer meetings later on Thursday to honor the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. US President Barack Obama is due to visit South Africa on the weekend as part of a three-nation Africa tour.