JOHANNESBURG, January 27, 2011 (AFP) – South Africa awaited news on the health of former president Nelson Mandela on Thursday, as his African National Congress party called for calm after he was hospitalised for “routine tests”. The news has put South Africa on edge over the health of the increasingly frail “Madiba” — the clan name by which the 92-year-old Nobel peace prize winner is affectionately known. “We call on all South Africans to remain calm regarding the hospitalisation of Madiba and not press any panic buttons, as there is no reason for that whatsoever,” African National Congress spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement. “If there is any change in the hospitalisation of Madiba, including his discharge from hospital, (it) will be communicated.”
The Nelson Mandela Foundation said Wednesday that Mandela was in Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg for routine tests but that his health was not in jeopardy. “He is in no danger and is in good spirits,” said a statement from the foundation, which Mandela established to continue his charitable work after withdrawing from public life in 2004. The Star newspaper reported Thursday that Mandela had been seen by a lung specialist at the private hospital. “He has been admitted for investigation,” the doctor, Michael Plit, told the newspaper. He declined to comment on Mandela’s condition. Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, and other family members were seen at the hospital Wednesday night. Machel’s daughter Josina and Mandela’s personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, were at the hospital Thursday morning. As media flocked to the hospital for news on Mandela’s health, a tight security presence surrounded the building — with police checking all visitors’ cars to make sure no journalists were hiding in the boot.
At a school next door to the hospital, children had decorated a fence with colourful pictures of hands and hearts and messages of support. “We hope you’ll get well soon,” said one. “Madiba, we love you,” said a sign in one of the school’s windows. Ntho Molena, a 16-year-old school pupil, said she and her colleagues were praying for Mandela to get well. “We feel it is very important to offer our support to the former president of South Africa because he brought major changes to us the children. “We are entering the great reward he fought for when he was in prison,” she told AFP. “Hopefully he gets better very, very soon.”
Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, emerging in 1990 to lead the country’s transition to democracy. As South Africa’s first black president, he defied the threat of civil war to lead a process of reconciliation in a country long divided against itself. Mandela’s public appearances have become increasingly rare since his retirement. His last public outing was at the closing ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg.
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