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Family moment of silence as Nelson Mandela drew a last breath

Monday, 9 December 2013 - 8:56am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
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Nelson Mandela drew his last breath unaided as his friends and family gathered around his bedside to say their goodbyes, it has emerged. Those closest to the revered former South African president were called to see him for a last visit by his wife, Graca Machel, who told one visitor: "The doctors have said, 'anytime'." One friend said the 95-year-old, who spent much of last year in and out of hospital suffering from a lung infection, had no life support in his final days and appeared to be "sleeping, but in pain".

"We bowed our heads and had a moment of silence by his side," Bantu Holomisa, a member of parliament, told The Daily Telegraph. "I could feel that it was not the Madiba I knew. Things had changed." There were differing reports this weekend about how Mandela died. One said that he had developed an immunity to antibiotics and then suffered an infection.

Another cited an irreversible fluid build-up in his lungs, while a third suggested his blood pressure had dropped beyond a level that doctors could resolve. What is known is that he was surrounded by his closest family -  Machel, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, his former wife to whom he remained close, his oldest daughter, Makaziwe, and his oldest grandchildren, Ndileka and Mandla. Mr Holomisa said he received a call from Ndileka on Thursday, telling him: "Bantu, we don't like what's happening with Tata [father], you must come."

He said: "I worked with him so closely for so many years. He used to call me to come and see him and when I rushed there, I found it was nothing serious, he just wanted to chat and eat together. "I'm finding it hard to believe he's gone, I'm still in a state of denial I suppose."

A source told the South African Sunday Times that the "toughest moment" for Mandela's family after he died was when "the military arrived to collect Madiba's body around midnight". He said family and friends "stood up to observe the moment and joined in" as Mandla sang praises.

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