JOHANNESBURG – Members of Nelson Mandela’s family and tribal elders gathered Tuesday at the former president’s rural hometown in eastern South Africa as concern grew for the 94-year-old leader who spent a third day in critical condition in a hospital, local media reported.
The office of President Jacob Zuma said Mandela’s condition remained unchanged after reporting late Sunday that his health had deteriorated to critical, alarming many South Africans as well as people around the world who regard the former president as a symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation.
Mandela’s family members held a meeting at his home in Qunu village in the Eastern Cape province, 600 miles south of Johannesburg, where the anti-apartheid leader grew up. No details on what was discussed in the meeting were announced. Those at the gathering included Mandela’s grandsons Mandla and Ndaba Mandela.
As on previous days, other family members were seen visiting the hospital in Pretoria where the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is being treated.
Dozens of doves were released on Tuesday outside the hospital, which has attracted well-wishers who have gathered outside to leave messages of support for Mandela.
“In terms of releasing these doves, we’re simply saying it symbolizes how he has set free us as South Africans,” said Kelvin Hugo, who arrived with the birds.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison during white racist rule and became South Africa’s first black president in all-race elections in 1994, was taken to the hospital on June 8 to be treated for what the government described as a recurring lung infection.