Mandela admitted in hospital amid speculation over health

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Fakir Hassen

Johannesburg, Jan 27 (PTI) Former South AfricanPresident Nelson Mandela has been admitted to a hospitalfor a medical checkup, amid growing speculation over thehealth of the anti-apartheid hero.

Visitors, including top ANC officials, continued toflock to the Milpark Hospital here for a second day as NobelLaureate Mandela, 92, remained under observation for "routinetests", as stated by his Foundation.

President Jacob Zuma called for calm as the nationawaited updates on the ailing leader''s condition.

"President Mandela is comfortable and is well lookedafter by a good team of medical specialists," Zuma said in astatement from Davos, from the World Economic Forum meet.

"We urge the media to afford him the dignity andrespect that he is entitled to as the country''s foundingdemocratic president, as a national hero and also as a citizenof the republic."

The ruling ANC party called for calm, urging SouthAfricans "not to press any panic buttons".

"We call on all South Africans to remain calmregarding the hospitalisation of Madiba and not press anypanic buttons, as there is no reason for that whatsoever," ANCspokesman Jackson Mthembu said.

"If there is any change in the hospitalisation ofMadiba, including his discharge from hospital, (it) will becommunicated."

South Africans prayed for the health of anti-apartheidhero Nelson Mandela as children at a local school have hungmessages of support outside the Milpark Hospital.

The democracy icon - known affectionately among SouthAfricans by his clan name, Madiba - has appeared increasinglyfrail on his infrequent public appearances since retiring frompublic life in 2004.

His last public appearance was at the football WorldCup closing ceremony last July. Privately his friends havewarned that his health has begun to deteriorate more rapidlyin recent months, according to the BBC.

Several of Mandela''s family members, including hiswife Graca Machel, were seen visiting the hospital on lastnight.

In a statement, the Nelson Mandela Foundation insistedMandela was "in no danger and is in good spirits". It said hewas undergoing routine tests, though South African mediareport he is being seen by a lung specialist.

Earlier rumours had started on social networks thatMandela was very ill, some even declaring that the leader haddied.

Neither the Mandela family nor the hospital wouldprovide any details of what was ailing the iconic leader wholed South Africa to democracy.

The only official statement was a brief one from theNelson Mandela Foundation, which said Mandela was "in nodanger and in good spirits." .

ANC spokesperson Brian Sokhutu said that some senior leaders of the ANC would shortly visit Mandelaafter consulting the family as he repeated a call to SouthAfricans to avoid undue panic about the leader''s health.

A spokesman for President Jacob Zuma, who was inDavos at the World Economic Forum, said he had no plans toreturn early in view of Mandela''s hospitalisation.

A huge contingent of local and foreign media hasbeen camping out at vantage points on the periphery of thehospital, especially on a motorway bridge overlooking thefacility.

Local police removed them from the bridge, yesterday,citing danger to themselves and passing motorists.

Thorough checks are also being conducted on vehiclesentering the hospital premises, including examining the trunksfor possible hidden journalists trying to sneak into thehospital.

Social networks are being flooded with messages ofgoodwill for Mandela, with a poignant message from hisgranddaughter Zoleka Mandela on Facebook being widelycirculated.

"I really hate to see you this way. It kills me eachtime. Know that I''m here for you as I believe you have alwaysbeen for me. We are all with you every step of the way.

�Spending my next few days with you just so I knowthat you''ll be OK. I''m saddened," read the message.

Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994to 1999, and was the first South African president to beelected in a fully representative democratic election.

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