Sigh of relief as Mandela goes home from hospital
Speculation over Nelson Mandela’s health is quelled as former South African president is discharged from hospital
South Africans breathed a collective sigh of relief today when their iconic former president Nelson Mandela, last seen in public at the closing ceremony of the World Cup in July 2010, was discharged after two nights in hospital.
Reporters had been camped outside the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, where Mandela was being treated for acute respiratory infection, and there was speculation overnight that the 92-year-old was close to death.
Spokesman after spokesman for the government had tried to calm the nation. He is "alive and kicking", Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told South African television on Thursday night, while an ANC spokesman said the fact that he had been hospitalised "should not suggest the worst".
Then it was announced this morning that President Zuma had unexpectedly left the World Ecocomic Forum in Davos.
Most worrying to Mandela's supporters was the fact that neither his family nor the Nelson Mandela Foundation had said anything by this morning and that when his estranged wife, Winnie, visited the hospital yesterday, she was seen leaving in tears.
Before leaving Davos, President Zuma had appealed for "calm and restraint". Reading between the lines, however, he was clearly readying South Africans for the inevitable.
Zuma said: "We urge the media to afford him the dignity and respect that he is entitled to as the country's founding democratic president, as a national hero and also as a citizen of the republic."
Desmond Tutu, asked by a reporter in Bloemfontein what more his country wanted from Mandela, responded: "We want him to remain forever but, you know... anything can happen."
This afternoon, however, Mandela was back home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton where he is subject to "intense monitoring" according to South Africa's surgeon general, VJ Ramlakan.
The fact that Mandela has lived so long despite spending 27 years in jail at the hands of the white minority regime is remarkable.
But, when the time comes, it will not make his passing any less painful for black South Africans who owe him their freedom from apartheid, and for a generation across the globe who protested year in year out at the evil of their oppressors.
Few can forget the sight of Nelson Mandela emerging from the Victor Verster prison on February 11, 1990, punching the air with his fist, and giving the world its first sight of that radiant smile, so free of bitterness. ·
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