CAPE TOWN: Nelson Mandela's wife has described how the former president's ''sparkle'' is fading, as South African officials disclosed that he is suffering from a recurring lung infection.
The authorities added that Mr Mandela, 94, was ''responding to treatment'' in a military hospital in Pretoria where he had spent three nights.
Graca Machel, whom Mr Mandela married on his 80th birthday in 1998, told of her pain at having to watch her husband ''ageing'' before her eyes. ''I mean, this spirit and this sparkle, you see that somehow it's fading,'' she said.
Better times … Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1999. Photo: Reuters
''To see him ageing, it's something also which pains you,'' she told an African television reporter. ''You understand and you know it has to happen.''
A granddaughter Ndileka Mandela said that Mr Mandela seemed to have accepted his condition. ''I think he takes it in his stride, he has come to accept that it's part of growing old, and it's part of humanity as such,'' she said.
Security is tight at the military hospital in Pretoria where the government says Mr Mandela is ''comfortable'' and not in any immediate danger. But officials have declined to say when he might be released. His condition was considered serious enough to fly him almost 1000 kilometres from his home village of Qunu to the capital on Saturday.
Broadcast vans parked near the hospital where South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela is hospitalised. Photo: AFP
The authorities waited until Tuesday before giving any solid information about his condition. Mr Mandela has been prone to lung infections ever since he caught tuberculosis as an inmate at Pollsmoor prison, Cape Town, at the age of 70 in 1988.
In January last year, Mr Mandela spent two nights at Milpark private hospital in Johannesburg for what officials described as routine tests. It turned out that he was suffering from a serious respiratory infection.
Mr Mandela was last admitted to hospital in February for a surgical procedure to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint.