South Africans adopted a mood of sombre resignation on Monday to the inevitability of saying goodbye to former president Nelson Mandela after the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader’s condition in hospital deteriorated to critical.
Madiba, as he is affectionately known, is revered among most of South Africa’s 53 million people as the architect of the 1994 transition to multi-racial democracy after three centuries of white domination.
However, his latest hospitalisation - his fourth in six months - has reinforced a realisation that the father of the post-apartheid ‘Rainbow Nation’ will not be around for ever.
President Jacob Zuma, who visited Mandela late on Sunday with African National Congress (ANC) deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, reflected the national mood when he told a news conference that Mandela remained critical.
“All of us in the country must accept that Madiba is now old. As he ages, his health will trouble him,” Zuma said, declining to give specific details about Mandela’s medical condition or other information from his hospital visit.