Hundreds of South Africans gathered at a historic church this Sunday to pray for Nelson Mandela following his release from hospital earlier this week.
The former president was taken to hospital on Wednesday, where he was treated for an acute respiratory infection. Speculation over his health went into overdrive as the 92-year-old spent a second night in the healthcare facility and no official details of his condition were released.
On Friday, however, the country breathed a communal sigh of relief as Mandela was discharged and returned home in apparently high spirits.
Kgalema Motlanthe, acting president of South Africa while Jacob Zuma is abroad, told a press conference that he had visited Mandela, who was sitting up in bed, according to the Guardian.
“When I walked into the ward, his exact words were he was very happy to see me,” said Motlanthe, adding that Mandela was making light of the situation with his wife, Graca Machel, and ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
“He’s in good spirits and was joking with us and teasing Graca and Mama Winnie and the sisters. Even for me to come to the press conference he told me, ‘Look, I won’t detain you any longer.'”
The country’s first democratically elected president also told Motlanthe that he was happy to be home and that he had slept better there than in hospital.
The government initially planned to have a photograph taken of Mandela in a bid to reassure the public that he was better, but this was cancelled at the last minute after the elderly leader fell asleep and they did not wish to disturb his rest, Times Live reports.
Vejay Ramlakan, surgeon-general of the South African national defence force, which provides specialised health care to former presidents, said Mandela would now continue to receive the same level of treatment at home.
“Medically, at present, there is no need to panic. Dr Mandela suffers from diseases common to people of his age as well as conditions that have developed over the years for which he receives chronic medication. He recently developed an acute respiratory infection for which he received treatment and has responded very well. He is stable but will be monitored closely,” said the expert according to the Guardian.
Ramlakan also noted that Mandela had suffered tuberculosis during his long imprisonment on Robben Island and has had previous respiratory infections.
“Despite all of this, his amazing positive attitude allows him to cope with the difficulties of old age with the greatest of graces,” he added.
[adsense]Yet these recent events have served as a reminder to many South Africans that their beloved leader, just 8 years away from 100, may be nearing the end and have joined in prayer.
Rev. Benedict Mahlangu, a priest at the main Roman Catholic church in the black township of Soweto, lit a candle and asked in excess of 500 congregants to pray for Mandela, the Associated Press reports.
Mahlangu said his parishioners showed great concern during Mandela’s two-night stay in hospital: “Around here, there was no life, everything just stopped. They were just asking questions: ‘Why?’ And I said to them, ‘the man is 92 years old, he has worked for us, he has done his part and then we need to pray for him.'”
“All of this wouldn’t have been possible without him,” said congregant and university student Lerato Tsotetsi. “He gave us this new South Africa, and yes, he’s our father, so it’s only right. We all are his children, and we’re gathering to pray for him.”
Click here to read more about a new tuberculosis cure, discovered recently in Australia.
Other celebrities who have recently been hospitalized include American socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor and musician Jimmy Buffett.
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