PRETORIA: (By Faisal Muhammad)– Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital has almost converted into shrine of iconic leader Nelson Mandela and devotees from all walk of life continue to grow outside the new sacred place amid stormy visit of US President Obama struggling to show his presence in a situation all eyes and attention are on the Mandela health.
The elder statesman is in a critical but stable condition in the hospital since being admitted on 8 June with a recurring lung infection.
Small children carrying colourful cards, balloons and flowers on Sunday walked excitedly to the entrance along Celliers Street, where a tribute to Mandela has been formed with flags, posters, cards, balloons, flowers, teddy bears and artwork.
Further down Park Street, cars parked on pavements as parents brought their children and more people came to leave their well wishes.
“We must pray for God to help Madiba,” a little girl said as her mother picked her up. She put down flowers and a card that read “I love you Madiba”. A while later a boy shouted amazed as he pointed to the wall: “Look, all the people love Mandela.”
On Monday, church groups, choirs and people streamed to the hospital. A group of about eight bikers came on their motorcycles to drop of cards and a signed T-shirt, but were stopped from entering Celliers Street.
The men and women parked their bikes on Park Street and walked to the hospital’s entrance, before leaving they entertained the crowd on Park Street by revving the bikes.
Two different choir groups from Pretoria and surrounding areas gathered at the entrance where they sang a few songs.
The Salvation Army band stood nearby playing church hymns. Tirsit Gizaw, dressed in a light blue dress, from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church said they came to say a special prayer for Mandela. ”We pray for a long life for him because we love him,” she said.
Dressed in white and golden robes, the leaders of the church led the group to the entrance of the hospital.
The group carried crosses and incense. They said their prayers and sang before leaving. People came to take pictures of them in front of the wall. A street vendor started selling pictures he took and instantly developed for passers-by outside the hospital.
Cars drove by slowly with people taking pictures of the media outside the hospital. Scores of journalists continue to congregate near the Celliers entrance, photographing and filming people dropping off cards and flowers.
At the Park Street entrance, journalists were eagerly waiting for visitors to arrive. Several flags from countries including South Africa, Barbados and Jamaica were put up on the hospital walls, several with Mandela’s face on it. Police have cordoned off Celliers Street to control traffic. Tshwane metro police cars were parked nearby.
Police closed off a section of the pavement next to Park Street and towed cars parked there illegally.
Numerous tents, generators, broadcasting cameras on tripods and outside broadcast vans have become a permanent feature on the pavement at both entrances. In the street, vendors were selling everything from food to Mandela merchandise.
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