CAPE TOWN: South Africa’s Nelson Mandela remains “quite ill” and is unable to speak, using facial expressions to communicate as he receives intensive medical care at home, his former wife told a Sunday newspaper.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said the 95-year-old former president was not on life support, but he was no longer talking “because of all the tubes that are in his mouth to clear (fluid from) the lungs” and prevent infection returning.
“He can’t actually articulate anything” as a result, she told The Sunday Independent.
“He communicates with the face, you see. But the doctors have told us they hope to recover his voice.” Mandela was discharged in a critical condition on Sept. 1 to his home in Johannesburg’s upmarket Houghton suburb after nearly three months in hospital for a lung infection.
“I have heard this nonsense that he is on life support. He is not,” Madikizela-Mandela said.
The country’s anti-apartheid hero is under the care of 22 doctors, and while his pneumonia has cleared, his lungs remain sensitive, she said, adding that it was “difficult for him.”
“He remains very sensitive to any germs, so he has to be kept literally sterile. The bedroom there (in Houghton) is like an ICU ward,” she explained.
“He remains quite ill, but thank God the doctors were able to pull him through from that (last) infection,” she said in the interview which was also carried in the Sunday Independent’s sister papers.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in apartheid jail before becoming South Africa’s first black leader, has faced several health scares.
His most recent 86-day hospital stay was his longest since he walked free from prison in 1990.
Mandela was in “an atmosphere he recognizes,” Madikizela-Mandela said.
“When he is very relaxed, he is fine and it has given us a lot of hope.” Earlier this month, fellow Robben Island prisoner Tokyo Sexwale also said Mandela was “fine.”
Mandela has been in and out of hospital since last year with lung-related complications .
His Johannesburg home has been reconfigured for him to receive intensive care on his release from hospital in a critical and at times unstable condition.
A globally admired figure for steering South Africa peacefully into democracy, Mandela’s health problems prompt outpourings of well wishes around the world.
These are particularly pronounced at home where he remains a symbol of unity, despite having been out of the public eye for several years.
Mandela served one term as president after he became the nation’s first leader elected in all-race polls in 1994.