Nelson Mandela Finally leaves hospital in South Africa But Still Frail

Former president’s condition described as ‘critical and at times unstable’ as he returns home to Johannesburg.

A portrait of former Nelson Mandela with get well messages outside the hospital in Pretoria where he was being treated. Photograph: Themba Hadebe/AP
A portrait of former Nelson Mandela with get well messages outside the hospital in Pretoria where he was being treated. Photograph: Themba Hadebe/AP

Nelson Mandela has been discharged from hospital but remains in a critical and at times unstable condition, South African officials said on Sunday.

The 95-year-old former president spent 12 weeks at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria and will continue to receive intensive care at his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton.

Mac Maharaj, a friend of Mandela and spokesman for President Jacob Zuma, said: “Former president Nelson Mandela has this morning, 1 September 2013, been discharged from the Pretoria hospital where he has been receiving treatment. We would like to wish him all the best as he continues his recovery at his Johannesburg home.”

Using Mandela’s clan name, he continued: “Madiba’s condition remains critical and is at times unstable. Nevertheless, his team of doctors are convinced that he will receive the same level of intensive care at his Houghton home that he received in Pretoria.

“His home has been reconfigured to allow him to receive intensive care there. The healthcare personnel providing care at his home are the very same who provided care to him in hospital. If there are health conditions that warrant another admission to hospital in future, this will be done.”

Mandela was admitted to hospital on 8 June when, it later emerged, his military ambulance suffered a breakdown and had to wait on the roadside for backup. Rumours about his condition circulated, news teams were scrambled from around the world and South Africans braced for the worst, with crowds gathering outside the hospital and some saying it was time to “let him go”.

An unseemly battle between Mandela family members over the final resting place of his late children – and by implication Mandela himself – was fought in court.

Yet the anti-apartheid hero clung on and, against the odds, was joined by his family for a celebration of his 95th birthday on 18 July, a day marked around the world. Some upbeat accounts even described him sitting up in bed with earphones watching TV. Reports on Saturday that he had been discharged from hospital were denied.

Maharaj added: “During his stay in hospital from the 8th of June 2013, the condition of our former president vacillated between serious to critical and at times unstable. He has received full medical support and continues to do so. He has also received visits from family, friends and colleagues. Despite the difficulties imposed by his various illnesses, he, as always, displays immense grace and fortitude.

“Madiba has been treated by a large medical team from the military, academia, private sector and other public health spheres. We thank all the health professionals at the hospital for their dedication. Most media have also been notably responsible and we thank them also for the maturity and understanding that all have in general displayed.”

He concluded: “We now call on all to allow the former president and his family the necessary private space so that his continuing care can proceed with dignity and without unnecessary intrusion.”

Ambulances and Mercedes vans, along with TV crews, could be seen outside Mandela’s home on Sunday, where well-wishers have gathered to pray.

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