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Nelson Mandela well enough to sit up and talk

Monday, 29 April 2013 - 4:44pm IST | Place: Johannesburg | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Grandson said that he was confident that the 94-year-old, who has been treated in hospital three times in the past four months for respiratory problems, would be back with his family before long.

Nelson Mandela's eldest grandson has confirmed that the former South African president is sitting up in bed and talking after being taken to hospital on Wednesday night as a result of a recurring lung infection.

Mandla Mandela, who is an ANC MP, said that his grandfather was "well", but said there were no immediate plans for him to return home.

"We are letting the doctors do what best they can. He is still undergoing medical check-ups," he said.

He added that he was confident that the 94-year-old, who has been treated in hospital three times in the past four months for respiratory problems, would be back with his family before long. "Madiba", as he is known, was taken to hospital around midnight on Wednesday, but his 32-year-old grandson stressed that the family were under no illusions about his state of health, given his age.

"We have been blessed as a family to have my grandfather all these years with us, we have cherished every moment and continue to do so," he said.

"My grandfather has never belonged to us, he belongs to the country and the global community. His service has been inspirational, not just to us as a family but to millions around the world, and he continues to be an inspiration to us all."

Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black, democratically elected president in 1994 after he was released from 27 years' imprisonment under the apartheid regime. Amid racial and inter-party tensions that threatened to plunge the country into civil war in the 1990s, he held South Africans together in a peace that largely holds to this day. Mandla Mandela, who has taken up the traditional chieftaincy in his grandfather's Xhosa homeland in the Eastern Cape village of Qunu, added that prayers were being said there for his swift recovery.

Prayers were also being said in Soweto, where Mr Mandela lived during his days as an anti-apartheid activist.

"Qunu without my grandfather is never the same - he has always been the anchor of the community," Mr Mandela said. "Everyone is in high spirits when he is around. They are waiting for him to return, but now he is having medical check-ups they are keeping him in their prayers." Mr Mandela moved "indefinitely" from his house in the smart Johannesburg suburb of Houghton to his home in Qunu, which is surrounded with rolling hills and traditional huts, in July 2011, and has said he wants to end his days there. But he has had to remain in the country's commercial capital since his lung infection in December.

Mandla Mandela was yesterday preparing to drive the 550 miles from Qunu to Pretoria to visit his grandfather, who is thought to be at 1 Military Hospital.

Among visitors to his bedside yesterday were his wife Graca, his former wife Winnie, his oldest daughter Maki, and grandsons Kweku and Ndaba.

George Bizos, Mr Mandela's lawyer and lifelong friend, said he believed the former president had a strong desire to fight back to better health. "It's a matter one doesn't have to discuss. I am 84 - every one of us wants to keep on going," Mr Bizos said. "I think that he has always had confidence in members of the [health] profession and he has the love and care of Graca and members of his family and a few of his friends that go to him from time to time. I think he enjoys that and would like to continue."

Mr Bizos said he saw Mr Mandela "two or three weeks ago".

"He was, for a man of 94, OK. He was sitting up, having a late lunch," he said. "He looked quite comfortable and well under the circumstances. As a prisoner he was ill on more than one occasion and he has overcome the difficulties that he has had in his later years. He has had a couple of problems but somehow he always manages to overcome any disabilities and be himself again."

A statement from President Jacob Zuma's office confirmed that Mr Mandela seemed to be getting better. "The presidency wishes to advise that Mr Mandela is in good spirits and enjoyed a full breakfast this morning," it read.

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