Candles burn for ailing Mandela

Cards and flowers for Nelson Mandela outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria
Cards and flowers for Nelson Mandela outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria

Burning candles, bouquets of pink and red flowers, paintings and hundreds of messages at the entrance of a Pretoria hospital on Wednesday urged critically-ill former president Nelson Mandela to soldier on.

Well-wishers have consistently registered support for Mandela in different forms, transforming the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital’s security wall into a miniature art gallery.

The celebrated anti-apartheid icon was admitted at the facility in the early hours of June 8 for a recurring lung infection.

The catalogue of presents, get-well-soon cards, mainly handwritten on cardboard, eclipsed the hospital’s signpost at the entrance on Celliers Street.

A card attached to a white teddy bear read: “Dearest Madiba. Thank you for everything you have done for our country. You are and will always be a true legend and a grandfather to all. From Alphonso Tania”.

Another read: “Tata Madiba, the Lord knows the plans of his children. May you get better, but even if you don’t, we will still love you as a nation. [From] Lwandile”.

Three candles were burning slowly near the messages. Many balloons, including several from a popular pizza outlet, were tied with ribbon onto bunches of flowers.

Security at the private hospital has been upscaled since Madiba was admitted.

After 5am on Wednesday, several police officers started screening vehicles entering the facility.

Despite the cold, scores of journalists from local and international media houses stayed outside the hospital.

Several broadcast vans still had their engines running. The news crews also set up generators for back up power.

Tshwane metro police officers parked near journalists on Celliers street. Numerous police patrol cars were also in the area.

Mandela’s home in Houghton was quiet on Wednesday morning, with police cars occasionally patrolling the area.

Around 1.10am three cars and one van from the Johannesburg metro police came down 4th Street, and turned into the street where Mandela’s house is located.

The van at the back of the patrol switched on its hazard lights, reversed and parked in the street in front of the gate before flashing its headlights.

About eight officers got out of the vehicles and had a discussion in front of the gate for 10 minutes before they all got back into the cars and drove off slowly.

Many Mandela family members, politicians, socialites and religious leaders had visited Madiba at the hospital after he was admitted for a recurring lung infection on June 8.

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Pumla-Makaziwe Mandela visited the Medi-Clinic Heart hospital, in Arcadia, east of Pretoria.

Mapisa-Nqakula arrived in a black Mercedes-Benz with blue flashing police lights shortly before 7pm.

Minutes earlier Mandela’s eldest daughter, Pumla Makaziwe-Mandela, and his granddaughters Tukwini and Ndileka Mandela, arrived at the hospital in a red Range Rover.

Shortly before their arrival, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba left the hospital.

Madiba’s step-daughter Jozina Machel was also at the hospital.

Controversial businessman Kenny Kunene arrived at the hospital’s Celliers street entrance to place flowers and speak to the media.

After Kunene’s visit, more Pretoria metro police officers arrived at the entry point.

They cordoned off Celliers Street where it meets with Park Street.

Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa arrived to check on the police officers and left after a brief discussion with them.

Earlier on Tuesday, the presidency confirmed that Mandela remained in a critical condition.

“[Mandela’s] condition remains unchanged in hospital, and doctors continue to do their best to ensure his recovery, wellbeing, and comfort,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement. – Sapa