Mandela family gathers at rural home

Granddaughters Ndileka Mandela (left) and Tukwini Mandela and daughter Makaziwe Mandela (right) arrive at a Pretoria hospital to visit Nelson Mandela.
Granddaughters Ndileka Mandela (left) and Tukwini Mandela and daughter Makaziwe Mandela (right) arrive at a Pretoria hospital to visit Nelson Mandela. (BEN CURTIS / AP)
Posted: June 26, 2013

JOHANNESBURG - Members of Nelson Mandela's family and tribal elders gathered Tuesday at the former president's rural home town in eastern South Africa, as concern grew for the 94-year-old leader who spent a third day in critical condition in a hospital, local media reported.

The office of President Jacob Zuma said Mandela's condition remained unchanged after reporting late Sunday that his health had deteriorated to critical, alarming many South Africans as well as people around the world who regard the former president as a symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation.

Mandela's family members held a meeting at his home in Qunu village in the Eastern Cape Province, 600 miles south of Johannesburg, where the antiapartheid leader grew up. No details on what was discussed in the meeting were announced. Those at the gathering included Mandela's grandsons Mandla and Ndaba Mandela, according to news reports.

The Mail & Guardian, a South African newspaper, reported on its website that some elders in the area were told of the meeting only shortly before it started.

"Many of us in the village were not aware, and we were only told this morning, so a number of Mandela elders still need to be transported to Qunu for the meeting," the newspaper quoted Silumko Mandela, a relative, as saying earlier in the day.

A military helicopter was also seen hovering over the Mandela home, reported the online edition of City Press, a South African newspaper.

As on previous days, other family members were seen visiting the hospital in Pretoria where the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is being treated. South Africa's defense minister and an Anglican archbishop also visited the facility.

Dozens of doves were released Tuesday outside the hospital, which has attracted well-wishers who have gathered outside to leave messages of support for Mandela.

Zuma asked that the legacy of Mandela, also known by his clan name Madiba, be celebrated July 18, his 95th birthday. In recent years, participants have done something to honor Mandela's values for 67 minutes, noting that he spent 67 years as a human rights lawyer, prisoner, peacemaker, and democratically elected president.

"Let us make it the biggest Mandela Day ever on the 18th of July," Zuma said, "focusing on doing good all over the country."

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