Anxious wait for news on Madiba

Poppy Louw and Sikho Ntshobane

WHILE the world anxiously awaits word of former president Nelson Mandela’s condition, villagers in his birthplace of Qunu near Mthatha are not leaving anything to chance, with some preparing to turn their homes into home-stay accommodation.

Residents said there might not be enough accommodation in their village for visitors should the former statesman die. However, most of them refused to comment, saying they were afraid of upsetting the Mandela family.

An employee at one of the houses that had been turned into a bed-and-breakfast said the house had previously housed a lot of foreign visitors who came to the village to see Mandela’s home.

Nowinothi Geledwana, 63, said she had previously rented out some rooms in her house and expected to do so again, should there be demand.

“I have about three to four rooms that are available and can be rented out should people prefer home- stay accommodation in Qunu.

“I really don’t know how much I will charge for them but I’m sure I will make some profit,” the unemployed grandmother of nine said.

However, pensioner Mqanduli Joyini said he was disappointed he did not have any rooms to rent out at his home.

“I really feel bad that I might have to watch people making money while I sit and fold my arms,” he said.

Other villagers said they were worried that if Mandela were to die their village would be forgotten by the authorities.

Meanwhile, Madiba’s relatives spent hours with him yesterday at the Pretoria hospital at which he is being treated for a recurring lung infection.

His former wife, Winnie Madikizela- Mandela, and two female relatives arrived at Mediclinic Heart Hospital just after 3pm.

Mandela’s daughter from his first marriage, Makaziwe, turned up shortly before that. Then came his grandson, Ndaba, and his eldest daughter by Madikizela-Mandela, Zindzi, and two other relatives. They all left just after 5pm.

Mandela’s second eldest daughter, ambassador to Argentina Zenani Mandela, arrived from the South American country to join her family at his bedside.

Mandela spent his third day in hospital after being rushed from his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, at about 1.30am on Saturday when his condition deteriorated.

The Presidency yesterday again released only sketchy details about Madiba’s condition.

Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said Mandela was receiving intensive care at the hospital.

“Today the doctors are saying his condition is unchanged,” he said.

“He is under expert attention and they [doctors] are doing everything to keep him comfortable.”

Maharaj said a newspaper report suggesting the Mandela family had barred the ANC and government from visiting Madiba was unfortunate.

“There is no substance to that.

“There are restrictions which arise from the fact that Madiba is under intensive care.

“Those are medical restrictions to control movement of people [to exclude the] possibility of visitors bringing infection into the environment.”

The newspaper had reported that the Mandela family had taken charge of the 94-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner’s hospital stay, banning everyone, including government leaders and senior party officials, from visiting him.

“His [President Jacob Zuma’s] focus now is to allow the medical team every opportunity to concentrate on their job,” Maharaj said.

“As head of state, President Zuma will visit at the appropriate time. We just want Madiba to get better.”

Maharaj said the 48 hours between Saturday and Monday, when there was no update on Mandela’s health, was caused by the lack of progress on the elder statesman’s health.

“You would not want a repetition of the same thing over and over.

“I know you want him to get better, but we can’t give you good news if it’s false. We can’t give you bad news when it’s not true.”

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the party had to rely on Maharaj for updates on Mandela’s condition.

“Our assumption [in the absence of constant updates] is that his condition is unchanged,” Mthembu said.

There was no movement outside Mandela’s house yesterday except for police officers who kept people away from the property.

The only notable presence was that of the media contingent – international and local – who kept an eagle eye on the house.

Police erected a fence yesterday evening next to one of the entrances of the hospital where numerous journalists had been camped out. Tshwane metro police officers also ordered them to move their cars.

About 10 uniformed policemen stood at the entrance, along with officers in civilian clothes. Several police cars were driven into and out of the hospital grounds.

All vehicles entering the hospital premises were inspected.

Well-wishes for the world icon continued to pour in yesterday.

The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation “thanked God” for the “extraordinary gift” of Mandela and wished him a speedy recovery.

“Tata Mandela once again endures the ravages of time in hospital. Our prayers are for his comfort and his dignity,” the organisation said.

African Union Commission chairman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said: “I am sending him our fervent prayers and numerous get-well-soon messages from the entire staff of the union. We give him courage and urge him [to] carry on.”

The SA Policing Union said Mandela touched everyone’s life in South Africa, and the country still needed him.

“We join billions across the globe in wishing him a speedy and full recovery. He is a fighter [and] we remain optimistic he will get well soon,” the union said.

North West premier Thandi Modise urged people to continue praying for Mandela.

“To many … Tata Madiba is a unifier and a symbol of reconciliation,” she said.”Though we know that he is not immortal, like all of us, we are inspired by his fighting spirit and wish his family all the strength to give him all the support he needs.” – Additional reporting by Sapa

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