Nelson Mandela is said to be on life support and his condition has continued to deteriorate over the past few days.

In South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, where Mandela grew up, a traditional leader said the time was near for Mandela, who is also known by his clan name, Madiba.

‘I am of the view that if Madiba is no longer enjoying life, and is on life support systems, and is not appreciating what is happening around him, I think the good Lord should take the decision to put him out of his suffering,’ said the tribal chief, Phathekile Holomisa.

‘I did speak to two of his family members, and of course, they are in a lot of pain, and wish that a miracle might happen, that he recovers again, and he becomes his old self again,’ he said.

‘But at the same time they are aware there is a limit to what miracles you can have.’

A presidential spokesman told the state broadcaster: ‘Over the past 48 hours, the condition of former president Madiba has gone down.’

A South African newspaper has also reported the anti-Apartheid icon is on life support, citing numerous sources close to the family.

The Citizen newspaper says Mr Mandela has a team of doctors supporting him at a Pretoria hospital.

One source was quoted as saying that his family had the option to switch off the ventilator.

South African President Jacob Zuma cancelled a trip to neighbouring Mozambique, intensifying speculation about the deterioration of Mr Mandela’s condition.

 
Vigil: Well-wishers hold candles as they pray outside the former president's hospital on Wednesday night

Vigil: Well-wishers hold candles as they pray outside the former president’s hospital on Wednesday night

 

 
Touching: Children light candles as they take part in a candlelit vigil for Mr Mandela

Touching: Children light candles as they take part in a candlelit vigil for Mr Mandela

Zuma made his decision not to leave the country after visiting the 94-year-old late yesterday in the Pretoria hospital where he has been receiving treatment for a lung infection for nearly three weeks.

‘Clearly the issue of seriousness has been such that President Jacob Zuma has cancelled his trip,’ presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told Talk Radio 702.

He declined to comment on reports that Mandela was on life support, saying: ‘I cannot confirm any clinical details.’

CNN also reported that the former president could no longer breathe unaided, quoting an official who ‘had been briefed in detail on his condition’.

Tributes: A woman and her young child look at prayers left by well-wishers outside the hospital

Tributes: A woman and her young child look at prayers left by well-wishers outside the hospital

Support: A girl holding a teddy bear stands in front of the wall of tributes left to the anti-apartheid icon

Support: A girl holding a teddy bear stands in front of the wall of tributes left to the anti-apartheid icon

George Bizos, one of Mr Mandela’s closest friends and his former lawyer, told The Daily Telegraph that they had never discussed his wishes towards the end of his life.

‘We can only hope for the best, and that is what the doctors decide to do,’ he said. ‘I am sure that the members of the family are discussing the matter with the doctors but it should probably be primarily the doctors in consultation with the family if the situation is critical.’

Last night a leading clergyman visited Nelson Mandela’s bedside to offer prayers for his ‘peaceful, perfect end’.

Thabo Makgoba, the Archbishop of Cape Town, issued an emotional statement asking that the former president of South Africa, who is in a critical condition, be released from pain and suffering.

However, Mr Mandela apparently opened his eyes and smiled when he was told about Barack Obama’s forthcoming visit to the country, according to his daughter.

 
Arrived safely: President Barack Obama holds his daughter Sasha's hand as the he and his family exit Air Force One after landing in Dakar, Senegal

Visit: Barack Obama holds his daughter Sasha’s hand as the he and his family land in Dakar, Senegal

 

 
Waiting: The balance of Obama's Africa trip could hang on the health of South African President Nelson Mandela

Waiting: The balance of Obama’s Africa trip could hang on the health of Mr Mandela

Mr Makgoba posted a message on Facebook asked for courage to be granted to Mr Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, and others who love him ‘at this hard time of watching and waiting’.

He added: ‘May your blessing rest upon Madiba now and always. Grant him, we pray, a quiet night and a peaceful, perfect, end.

‘Uphold all of us with your steadfast love so that we may be filled with gratitude for all the good that he has done for us and for our nation, and may honour his legacy through our lives.’

The 94-year-old statesman is in a critical condition in hospital in Pretoria, but nonetheless was able to show his pleasure at hearing of the U.S. President’s visit.

Mr Obama is believed to be keen to meet Mr Mandela, but given the delicate condition of the African leader he will not do so unless he is invited by the Mandela family.

 
Visit: Mr Mandela's ex-wife Winnie, centre, and daughter Zindzi, right, arrive at the hospital

Visit: Mr Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie, centre, and daughter Zindzi, right, arrive at the hospital today

 

 
 
Ndaba Mandela
Nkileka Mandela
 

Relatives: The leader’s grandchildren Ndaba, left, and Nkileka, right, also paid visits to him today

 

That prospect appeared to be more likely after Mr Mandela’s daughter Zindzi described how she told her father that Mr Obama would be touring South Africa.

After she told him ‘Obama is coming,’ she said, ‘He opened his eyes and gave me a smile.’

The U.S. President arrived in Senegal yesterday and will travel to South Africa on Friday during his second trip to Africa since taking office.

Mr Mandela has been in hospital being treated for a lung infection since June 8, and over the weekend his condition was downgraded from ‘serious’ to ‘critical’.

 
Crowd: Children gather to deliver their best wishes to Mr Mandela as he remains in a critical condition

Crowd: Children gather to deliver their best wishes to Mr Mandela as he remains in a critical condition

 

 
Prayer: A pupil leads his classmates in praying for Mr Mandela, who is suffering from a lung infection

Prayer: A pupil leads his classmates in praying for Mr Mandela, who is suffering from a lung infection

 

 
Flowers: Another supporter of the former president left a bunch of roses along with a message

Flowers: Another supporter of the former president left a bunch of roses along with a message

 

Close relatives of the 94-year-old yesterday held an emergency meeting at the former anti-apartheid leader’s home in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape.

As fears for Mandela’s health worsen, well-wishers have flocked to the hospital to leave letters, cards and flowers along the outside of the building.

Among the cards were handwritten notes from schoolchildren thanking the inspirational leader who helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.

The security wall at the hospital has now been transformed in to a homage to Mandela – who spent 27 years in prison because of his activism.

 
 
 
Tributes: A police officer places flowers for former South African President Nelson Mandela outside the Medi-Clinic Heart hospital in Pretoria, where the former anti-apartheid leader is being treated for a lung infection

Tributes: A police officer places flowers for former South African President Nelson Mandela outside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, where the former anti-apartheid leader is being treated for a lung infection

 
Well wishers gathered outside the hospital to sing in tribute to South Africa's first black president

Well wishers gathered outside the hospital to sing in tribute to South Africa’s first black president

 

 

A community group from Pretoria sing hymns and songs outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital

A community group from Pretoria sing hymns and songs outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where the former South African president is being treated

 

 
 

One of the messages read: ‘We love you Mandela. God bless you’.

Another read: ‘We love you Tata Mandela. I am still young, I still need to see you. Get better. (From) Tino.’

Other well-wishers have travelled to Nelson Mandela’s home in a Johannesburg suburb to pray for the 94-year-old.

‘I will wait for Madiba to come back home. I will make sure, I’m going to pray later, and then Mandela, I hope you come. I love you Mandela,’ well-wisher Thembi Magagula said outside Mandela’s home in Houghton today.

 

 
 
Meeting: Pedestrians and a vehicle are seen at the entrance to the homestead of former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu, South Africa, as close relatives were locked in a meeting at the property in Eastern Cape province

Meeting: Pedestrians and a vehicle are seen at the entrance to the homestead of former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu, South Africa, as close relatives were locked in a meeting at the property in Eastern Cape province

 
 
Discussion: Family elders of the Mandela family arrive the former president's home in Qunu today as he remained in critical condition in hospital

Discussion: Family elders of the Mandela family arrive the former president’s home in Qunu today as he remained in critical condition in hospital

We love you: One of the dozens of hand-made messages of support for former South African President Nelson Mandela posted to the wall outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital

We love you: One of the dozens of hand-made messages of support for former South African President Nelson Mandela posted to the wall outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital

It comes after the country’s President Jacob Zuma urged the country to send their wishes to the man he called the ‘father of democracy’.

President Zuma visited Mandela in hospital on Sunday night after his condition deteriorated.

Zuma, who in the past has given an overly sunny view of Mandela’s health, briefly spoke of his visit during a recent press conference.

‘It was late, he was already asleep,’ Zuma said. ‘And we then had a bit of a discussion with the doctors as well as his wife, Graca Machel, and we left.’

The president said South Africans should accept that Mandela is old, and he urged people to pray for their former leader.

‘Madiba is critical in the hospital, and this is the father of democracy. This is the man who fought and sacrificed his life to stay in prison, the longest-serving prisoner in South Africa,’ Zuma said, using Mandela’s clan name.

Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president after the end of apartheid in 1994, was hospitalised for a recurring lung infection. This is his fourth hospitalisation since December.

Mandela was jailed for 27 years under white racist rule and was released 23 years ago, in 1990. He then played a leading role in steering the divided country from the apartheid era to an all-race democracy.

As a result of his sacrifice and peacemaking efforts, he is seen by many around the world as a symbol of reconciliation.

 

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