JOHANNESBURG – Three weeks ago, Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero, seemed at death’s door. A family affidavit presented in a court hearing the following week said he was on life support and described his demise as “impending.”
On Wednesday, the eve of his 95th birthday, Mandela was watching television with headphones on, his daughter Zindzi Mandela said.
Describing what she said was a dramatic improvement in Mandela’s health in an interview on British television, Zindzi Mandela said, “I should think he will be going home anytime soon.”
Mandela has been hospitalized since June 8 with a lung infection, the latest in a series in recent months. His daughter said he was regaining strength and energy.
“He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand,” she said, although he is still unable to speak. “He responds with his eyes and his hands.”
Mandela has been in critical condition for weeks; the first indication that he might leave the hospital came Saturday from Mandela’s successor as president, Thabo Mbeki.
South Africans have been preparing a wide range of special tributes to mark his birthday. A huge celebration of his life is expected, with songs in his name, a giant birthday card and artistic works. Many South Africans will donate 67 minutes of their time to community service, one for each year that he gave to serving South Africa’s people.