As Nelson Mandela begins his fifth week at the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, the public outpouring of love, prayers and support for his speedy recovery continues to swell.
This morning, just like each of the 31 days Mandela has spent at the facility, young and old from all walks of life are still streaming in, bringing their families along to wish Madiba well.
A box of well-wishes, containing 10 000 flyers visitors could use to write messages to the former statesman, was left by the Life@40 ’n Beyond organisation on Saturday and is already empty.
Ellie Ngobe (58) from Tembisa, south of Johannesburg, slotted her message into the box and said a little prayer.
Ngobe’s message reads: “Tata we love you, God will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
Ngobe doesn’t want to comment on the Mandela family feud that has grabbed headlines recently and simply wishes Mandela could go home and live another 27 years.
“I was in town with my cousin and the kids and we said we can’t not be here and not come through to pay tribute and wish him well,” said Ngobe.
What has been clear for the past four weeks is South Africans’ undying love for Mandela. This has been displayed by the countless church groups, choirs, painters and solo singers and praise singers – among others – that have made their way to the hospital every day.
There have been people from as far afield as Sweden, Nigeria, Morocco, the Netherlands, the US, the Democratic Republic of Congo – to list a few – who have laid flowers, sung along with the choirs or simply left messages on the wall of tributes outside the hospital.
Even journalists have even been swept away by the spirit of wanting to see arguably the world’s greatest living icon get well, with some international reporters buying Mandela memorabilia on sale outside the hospital.
“This is probably the only time I would buy such a T-shirt while covering a story, but we’re talking about Nelson Mandela here, not just loved here but all over the world. We may not see another like him for a long time,” said a cameraman from the US as he pulled out a R100 note to purchase a T-shirt with Mandela’s image.
Sipho Khuphe was also overwhelmed by his mere presence at the hospital. Khuphe arrived with a group of colleagues from the Zimbabwe African People’s Union to pay tribute to Madiba.
“I can’t imagine an Africa without Mandela, because he sacrificed himself for South Africans. When he was in prison and his oppressors wanted to set him free, Mandela refused to go free unless everyone was free from apartheid,” said Khuphe.
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