Former president Nelson Mandela is well and responsive, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has said.
“He opens his eyes and nods, as if to say: ‘I’m here with you and appreciate what you’re doing,’” she said outside Pretoria’s Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital where Mandela is spending his 95th birthday today.
A military brass band played the national anthem three times outside the Celliers Street entrance to the hospital to wish their first commander-in-chief on his birthday.
Mapisa-Nqakula praised the doctors treating Mandela for the work they had done so far.
“We never knew (that) on this day Madiba would be looking at us and be smiling and alert.
“We want to thank the doctors because we owe everything to them,” she said.
The minister said a birthday card, from the whole of the defence force, was given to the ailing elder statesman. President Jacob Zuma read the message to him.
Asked whether Mandela’s discharge was on the cards, she said: “It’s for the doctors to say when they feel he is ready to go home.”
Leaders of various churches gathered at the hospital to wish Madiba well on his birthday.
They assembled at the Park Street entrance to the hospital to say prayers, asking God to heal Mandela.
Leading the group was Reverend Kenneth Meshoe of the African Christian Democratic Party.
“Religious leaders believe in prayer. When someone has done good, it is our duty to thank God for sending us such a person,” he said.
“We are here to ask God to bless Mandela and his family. We have a peaceful South Africa today because of him (Mandela).”
Mapisa-Nqakula left the hospital shortly after the church leaders said their prayer.
Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement earlier that Madiba’s health was steadily improving.
He was admitted to the hospital on June 8 with a recurring lung infection.
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