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Prayers for Mandela as country urged to 'let him go'

It is the fourth hospital stay since December for Mandela, who turns 95 next month.

The former South African President Nelson Mandela in April 2009.
The former South African President Nelson Mandela in April 2009.
Image: (AP Photo/Cara Viereckl,Pool)

SOUTH AFRICA WAITED for news of Nelson Mandela after the ailing 94-year-old icon spent a second night in hospital in a serious but stable condition, sparking worldwide concern.

Mandela’s latest bout of illness was splashed across Sunday’s press but officials have released no updates since announcing he was hospitalised early Saturday and in a “serious but stable” condition.

“It’s time to let him go,” was the front-page headline in the Sunday Times with a picture of the former statesman smiling and waving.

“We wish Madiba a speedy recovery, but I think what is important is that his family must release him,” long-time friend Andrew Mlangeni, 87, told the newspaper, using Mandela’s clan name.

Nelson Mandela celebrating his 94th birthday last year. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

It is the fourth hospital stay since December for Mandela, who turns 95 next month, and comes just weeks after he was discharged for the same lung infection.

“Quite clearly you are not well and there is a possibility you might not be well again,” said Mlangeni, saying Mandela had been hospitalised “too many times”.

“Once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow. We will say thank you, God, you have given us this man, and we will release him too,” said Mlangeni, who served time alongside Mandela in apartheid prison.

Mandela’s wife Graca Machel has been at his bedside in hospital after calling off a trip to London.

Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said on Saturday that Mandela was breathing on his own, which was “a positive side”..

But there have also been growing calls on Twitter for acceptance of the mortality of the man known as “tata” (father) of the nation.

“Can we all just give this Great Man the dignity 2 die in peace if its his time. Has he not given us all enough #ThankU Tata #Mandela,” said one tweet.

The ruling ANC has called for people at home and abroad to pray for Mandela.

The Nobel peace laureate is revered as a symbol of forgiveness after embracing his former jailers following decades of apartheid rule.

- © AFP, 2013

Read: Mandela back in hospital in ‘serious but stable’ condition>
More: Mandela in ‘good spirits’ despite hospital stay>

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