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SA President cancels business trip to be near an ailing Mandela

An Australian minister has apologised for making a serious gaffe, telling a business dinner Mandela had died.

A woman prays for Madiba outside his hospital in Pretoria, SA.
A woman prays for Madiba outside his hospital in Pretoria, SA.
Image: (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

NELSON MANDELA, THE 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero, is on life support, unable to breathe on his own, an elder in the South African icon’s clan has said, giving no hope of a recovery.

President Jacob Zuma cancelled a trip to Mozambique after he visited Mandela in Pretoria hospital, where he “found him to be still in a critical condition.”

“President Zuma was briefed by the doctors who are still doing everything they can to ensure his well-being,” a statement from the presidency said.

Twenty-hours earlier Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba had visited the Mediclinic Heart Hospital to pray with wife Graca Machel “at this hard time of watching and waiting”.

Outside the hospital emotional crowds have gathered to hold a candlelight vigil, to offer their own prayers and remember the life of one of the last remaining giants of 20th century history.

Australian minister gaffe

Meanwhile, Australia’s Resources Minister Gary Gray has apologised after mistakenly telling a business dinner that ailing South African democracy icon had died.

Gray conveyed the information to the Minerals Council of Australia’s official dinner at Parliament House in Canberra, which he attended in place of Julia Gillard who was in the throes of a leadership crisis last night.

“I apologise unreservedly and am deeply sorry to have relayed what I thought was reliable advice,” Gray said in statement, adding that he had also conveyed his apology to South Africa’s high commissioner, the Australian parliament and the Minerals Council.

Additional reporting AFP

Reports: Nelson Mandela ‘on life support’

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Amy Croffey

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