South Africans prayed on Sunday for the health of former president Nelson Mandela and anxiously awaited further word about the anti-apartheid leader after he was admitted to a military hospital.
President Jacob Zuma visited Mandela Sunday morning at the hospital in Pretoria and found the frail 94-year-old to be “comfortable and in good care,” presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement. Maharaj offered no other details about Mandela, nor what medical tests he had undergone since entering the hospital Saturday.
The continued uncertainty about Mandela’s health saw worshippers gather Sunday morning at the Regina Mundi Catholic church in the Soweto area of Johannesburg to pray for the leader. The church was a centre of anti-apartheid protests and funerals.
“Yes, it really worries us because he is a great person,” church goer Shainet Mnkomo said as she left an early morning service. “He did so many things to the country, he’s one of those persons who we remember most.”
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term. He later retired from public life to live in his remote village of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape area, and last made a public appearance when his country hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.
Many view Mandela, who led the African National Congress to power, as a father figure and an icon of integrity and magnanimity amid the nation’s increasingly messy politics.