A longtime friend of former South African president Nelson Mandela is urging the country to “let him go.”
The 94-year-old was rushed to a Pretoria hospital with a recurring lung infection Saturday, where he remains in “serious but stable” condition.
While the world waited for word of the beloved anti-apartheid revolutionary’s condition, his friend Andrew Mlangeni told South Africa that it was to time to “release” Mandela.
“We wish Madiba a speedy recovery, but I think what is important is that his family must release him,” the 87-year-old Mlangeni said.
“You [Mandela] have been coming to the hospital too many times. Quite clearly you are not well and there is a possibility you might not be well again,” he addressed his friend.
“The family must release him so that God may have his own way. They must release him spiritually and put their faith in the hands of God,” he concluded. “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.”
South African political analyst Nombonisa Gasa agreed with Mlangeni’s statement.
“Mlangeni has spoken as an elder,” Gasa wrote on Twitter. “In the socio-cultural world I grew up the family is counselled [sic] ‘mkhululeni’ – ‘in your hearts, set him free’.”
However, President Jacob Zuma urged his country to continue to pray for Mandela to get better.
“Please, our president Madiba must make a speedy recovery,” Zuma said. “We wish Madiba can get well soon because we want him to stay with us for a long time.”
Caught in the middle of the opposing opinions is Nelson Mandela’s family.
Mandela’s grandson, Ndaba, asked that the family be left alone.
“Please give us our space. It’s better that way,” he said. “We are all going through the same thing – we don’t know what will happen, we are hoping for the best.”
One of Mandela’s three remaining daughters, Zindzi, said, “I’ve seen my father and he’s well. He’s a fighter.”
Nelson Mandela has been in and out of the hospital at least three times in the past eight months. In December 2012, he was in the hospital for a gallstone operation. That same month, he was receiving treatment for his lung infection. In March 2013, Mandela was hospitalized again for the lung infection. Now there is this most recent hospital stay.
According to presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj, Mandela was hospitalized early Saturday after his health deteriorated over the last few days. However, he is currently breathing on his own.
Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, is in the hospital with the first black president of South Africa, having canceled her plans to attend the Hunger Summit meeting in London Saturday. Mandela is receiving around-the-clock care.