PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) – Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was on life support in a Pretoria hospital late Wednesday, said an official who had been briefed in detail on his condition.
Considered the founding father of South Africa’s democracy, Mandela, 94, has been hospitalized since June 8 for a recurring lung infection. Authorities have described his condition as critical since Sunday, and President Jacob Zuma said earlier Wednesday that Mandela’s condition remained unchanged, South Africa’s national news agency reported.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, the government said Mandela’s doctors “continue to do their best to ensure his recovery, well-being and comfort.”
As the nation remained on edge, police barricaded the street leading to the hospital’s main entrance. Well-wishers hung balloons, stuffed animals and messages of support along the wall outside his Pretoria hospital. Crowds hovering nearby sang “Where is Mandela?”
“We need you!,” one sign read. “We love you tata, get well soon!” said another, referring to Mandela by the Xhosa word for father. Someone else left a stone upon which was written, “Sending you light and love.”
Several members of the family came out to collect some of those items Wednesday.
“He’s going to feel a lot better when he sees these signs,” said David Manaway, Mandela’s grandson-in-law.
Mandela’s former physician and the nation’s ex-surgeon general, Dr. Vejay Ramlakan, also visited the hospital Wednesday, said the national news agency, South African Press Association.
Mandela became an international figure while enduring 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid, the country’s system of racial segregation. He was elected the nation’s first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed.
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