JOHANNESBURG— Journalists and South Africans have flocked to former South African president Nelson Mandela’s home in Johannesburg following his release Sunday from a Pretoria hospital. Mandela spent 85 days there after being admitted on June 8 for a recurring lung infection. While many South Africans are breathing a sigh of relief, some have questioned why the world icon was released despite the fact that his condition remains critical and at times unstable.
Since Sundays’ announcement that the 95-year-old former president was allowed to return home from the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, social media have been flooded with congratulatory messages, and the story has made international headlines.
The media that was entrenched for months outside the hospital now has moved to Mandela’s home in Houghton - an upscale neighborhood in Johannesburg. Broadcasting vans lined up outside waiting for news of how Mandela’s first night home was.
Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe, visited her father soon after his release from the hospital and told journalists the family is greatly relieved. "He is still critical, and as the presidency says, very unstable, but we are happy that he is home.”
South Africans from all walks of life are also gathering outside the Mandela home in a show of support for the country’s first black president.
Ivana Arrigoni, who lives two streets away, said at first she was alarmed seeing so many journalists and cars thinking Mandela’s condition had gotten worse.
“We’ve been here about eight times already since Mandela has been sick, with flowers... Mandela is South Africa. Everybody loves him. The whole world loves him and even the kids, so now I’m very happy,” said Arrigoni.
Her 11-year-old son, Luca, hadn’t been born when apartheid ended in 1994. Young Luca said, though, that he has been taught about Mandela’s sacrifices for South Africa. “I’m here to make sure that he is here and still alive and everything with Mandela, to bring stones and flowers and everything. Right now I just hope he gets better.”
Thirty-eight-year-old Cassius Semaushu, who drove 20 kilometers to witness Mandela’s arrival at his home, questioned why he was released from hospital, however, if indeed his condition was still critical.
“If he hasn’t yet recovered, why release the poor man from hospital, if he is not well? But I understand that they have got the doctors 24/7 here to look after him. Let’s hope that they will do the same good job that they did while he was in hospital. We are with the family, supporting the family and we’re wishing him speedy recovery,” said Semaushu.
Presidential Spokesperson Mac Maharaj has assured South Africans nothing has been sacrificed by moving Mandela, and his home has been reconfigured to allow the same doctors, who have been treating him at the hospital, to give him the same intensive care.
Maharaj also scolded the media after some erroneous reports over the weekend that the former president was released a day earlier.
“The media need to take their own responsibility for their own actions. We have indicated and it compelled us to issue a correction. We rely on the media to correct themselves. And we hope that in the future we will get continued cooperation from them,” said Maharaj.
Mandela is revered internationally for his role in ending official racial discrimination and white minority rule. After spending 27 years in prison, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected South Africa's first black president the following year.