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After visiting him in a Pretoria hospital where he has been for 17 days, South Africa’s president called on his country Monday to pray for his predecessor, anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, who is 94 years old and has for two days been in critical condition, The Associated Press reported.

President Jacob Zuma called Mandela by his clan name, Madiba, saying “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. He is one of those who has contributed to democracy. All of us in the country should accept the fact that Madiba is now old. As he ages, his health will … trouble him,” the AP reported.

According to the AP, responding to questions about why reporters have not had more information, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said doctors had not been available to reporters at the family’s request and preference that information be disseminated via a “single source in an authoritative way.”

This has been the fourth hospitalization since December for Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president in the country’s first all-race elections after the end of apartheid in 1994. Mandela became a world figure for reconciliation after he was released from prison in 1990 after being held for 27 years for his activities with the African National Congress and then rallied for peaceful political change.

Rare Staff Report |