Nelson Mandela recovering at home after hospital stay

AFP , Monday 27 Feb 2012

South Africa breathes sigh of relief as anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela discharged after one night in hospital

South Africa
Former South African President Nelson Mandela in 2007, (Photo: AP).

Nelson Mandela was recovering at home in Johannesburg on Monday after being discharged from hospital with a clean bill of health, easing fears over the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle.

The 93-year-old former president was released Sunday after spending the night in hospital for a minor exploratory procedure to investigate persistent abdominal pain.

President Jacob Zuma's office said Mandela was resting with family at his home in the leafy suburb of Houghton.

"Following his discharge from hospital (Sunday), former president Nelson Mandela has resumed his normal day-to-day life," a statement said.

"He is recuperating at home with the support of his family."

But even as South Africa breathed a collective sigh of relief, Mandela's latest hospitalisation forced the nation to contemplate the day when the man who led it from the dark days of white-minority rule will no longer be here.

"Whenever it comes, it will come as a shock. There will be a lot of public mourning because of the influence he had over the last 70 years in South Africa and over the life of most South Africans," Frans Cronje of the South African Institute of Race Relations told AFP.

Mandela, once a spry former boxer who stayed fit during his 27 years in prison by doing calisthenics in his cell, has grown increasingly frail as a nonagenarian.

His last public appearance was at the final of the World Cup in South Africa in July 2010.

Rumours of his death or failing health flare up periodically, forcing the government to issue reassurances that all is well.

His last hospitalisation, for a chest infection in January last year, sparked public panic and a media frenzy as the government and Mandela's charitable foundation refused to release information on his condition.

The media generally praised the government for handling last weekend's hospital stay better than that of 2011, when Mandela underwent two days of treatment for an acute respiratory infection initially described as "routine" testing.

Officials moved quickly to announce that "Madiba", as he is affectionately known, had been hospitalised, and to issue updates.

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, whose ministry is in charge of Mandela's health care, gave a press conference Sunday detailing the procedure he had undergone: diagnostic laparoscopy, or "keyhole surgery", in which doctors make small incisions in the abdominal area to probe it with a tiny camera.

But officials refused to say where he was being treated, appealing for privacy. They still have not detailed the exact nature of his ailment.

He was brought home surreptitiously, in what journalists gathered outside his house only realised in retrospect was probably an unmarked black vehicle with tinted windows.

The media have developed an ambivalent relationship with their own coverage of the global icon's health scares.

"Madiba is no ordinary man but despite his innumerable achievements he is human, not deserving to be treated like a spectacle. So, it is about time he was given a breather to recuperate in peace," said the Sowetan in its editorial Monday.

Columnist Robyn Curnow summed up why the nation, now 18 years into post-apartheid democracy, holds its breath each time it is forced to contemplate a Mandela-less future.

"Nelson Mandela is held in deep affection because he reminds South Africans of how far they have come," she wrote in The Times. "Mandela rekindles South Africans' nostalgia for a time when this country was a miracle of democracy."

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