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South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela was admitted to a military hospital Saturday for medical tests, though the nation's president told the public there was "no cause for alarm" over the 94-year-old icon's health.
The statement issued by President Jacob Zuma's spokesman said that Mandela was doing well and was receiving medical care "which is consistent for his age." The statement offered no other details.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, became South Africa's first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term. He later retired from public life to live in his village of Qunu, and last made a public appearance when his country hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.
"We wish Madiba all the best," Zuma said in the statement, using Mandela's clan name. "The medical team is assured of our support as they look after and ensure the comfort of our beloved founding president of a free and democratic South Africa."
While the government sought to reassure South Africans about Mandela's health, he remains viewed as a father figure to many in this nation of 50 million people. Each hospital trip raises the same worries about the increasingly frail former leader of the African National Congress — that the man who helped bring the nation together is slowly fading away.
In February, Mandela spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint. In January 2011, however, Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection. He was discharged days later.
Mandela contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison. He also had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985.
While Zuma's statement offered no further details about who would provide medical attention for Mandela, the nation's military has taken over caring for the aging leader since the 2011 respiratory infection. At 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria on Saturday night, the facility that previously cared for Mandela in February, everything appeared calm, without any additional security present.
Mac Maharaj, a presidential spokesman, declined to say whether Mandela had been flown by the military from Qunu to Pretoria. He also declined to say what the tests were for.
"It's quite normal at his age to be going through those tests," Maharaj told The Associated Press.
Mandela's hospitalization comes just days after the crash of a military aircraft flying on an unknown mission near Mandela's rural home in which all 11 onboard were killed.
The plane was flying to a military air base in Mthatha, which is about 30 kilometers (17 miles) north of Qunu. Military officials declined to say whether those on board had any part in caring for Mandela.
When South Africans open their wallets, they will be greeted by images of a smiling Nelson Mandela in various denominations.
This week, the nation launched banknotes featuring a picture of the former president and anti-apartheid icon on the front. The back of the banknotes retains images of the Big Five animals.
Big Five --- lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino and leopard -- refer to the most celebrated animals in African game reserves.
"Our currency is a unique symbol of our nationhood, with many of us handling banknotes every day," said Gill Marcus, the Reserve Bank governor . "The Reserve Bank is proud to be able to honor South Africa's struggle icon and first democratically elected president in this way."
Before the launch, a public awareness campaign helped familiarize citizens with the new bills, Marcus said in a statement.
Mandela, a Nobel peace laureate, spent 27 years in prison for fighting against oppression of minorities in South Africa. He became the nation's first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed from prison.
Though he has not appeared in public for years, he retains popularity for his role in reconciling a country torn apart by apartheid.
The new 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 rand banknotes will co-exist with the current bills as legal tender.
"It was a great honour for me to serve as a president of America while Mandela was president of the Republic of South Africa," Clinton said in Qunu, the picturesque south-east village where Mandela grew up.
"We worked together as presidents and even after we left office we continued working together to improve education of the children worldwide in order for them to share the future," he added.
Clinton opened a library at a primary school together with Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, and daughter Zindzi ahead of the statesman's birthday on Wednesday.
mail & Guardian
He said earlier that he hoped to visit Mandela, but so far no meeting has been confirmed.
"As the Mandela family we really appreciate the bond between these two families," said Machel.
She thanked "the family of Clinton for being with the family of Mandela because each and every birthday president Clinton has always availed himself".
International Mandela day
In 2009 the United Nations declared July 18 as International Mandela Day, aimed at getting people all over the world to volunteer for good causes.
Around 3 000 schoolchildren, residents and government officials braved a chilly winter wind to attend the library opening.
Some schoolchildren performed a traditional dance in honour of the visit.
Clinton and Machel were later due to plant a tree at the Garden of Remembrance, the burial place for local chiefs.
Mandela was elected South Africa's first black president after spending 27 years in jail for his battle against white-minority oppression.
Respected for reconciling his country, the increasingly frail icon has largely withdrawn from public life. He returned to Qunu in May after a brief hospital stay in Pretoria in February. – AFP
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
On the 18th of July 1978, Nelson Mandela spent his 60th birthday on Robben Island.
In celebration of the man whom the London Times called “the colossus of African nationalism”, Mr Walter Sisulu and Mr Ahmed Kathrada delivered speeches, while governments and individuals across the world sent messages of support.
These messages were addressed to Mrs Winnie Madikizela Mandela, who also gave an interview to the New York Times.
Mandela himself received only eight messages from family and friends. One of those messages was from me, and Mandela responded warmly.
We had maintained a friendship that began in the fifties, when I discovered that Mandela was close to my father-in-law, Zachariah Mzila.
Whenever Mandela visited him at the Eloff Street compound where he worked, Mr Mzila's daughter, Irene Thandekile Mzila, would serve him tea and become the target of his gentle teasing.
I was in Durban at that time, completing my studies at the non-European section of the University of Natal, and I attended meetings of the ANC in Nichols Square, together with people like Tambo, Sisulu, Luthuli, Monty Naicker, Yengwa and Mandela. My political activism at the University of Fort Hare, where I had belonged to the ANC Youth League, had seen me rusticated from that institution. Mandela himself, who was a founding member of the Youth League, had been expelled from Fort Hare before I arrived.
When my father-in-law passed away, I asked Mandela to wind up his estate, as a lawyer and family friend.
Following the Rivonia Trial and Mandela's incarceration, we continued to correspond. Some of Mandela's letters had to be smuggled out by his visitors. At other times, he wrote to me through my wife, Princess Irene.
There are two letters that I remember well.
The first is his letter of condolence upon the passing King Cyprian Bhekuzulu ka Solomon. As the King's traditional Prime Minister, confidante and cousin, I was pained by his death in 1968.
South African President F. W. de klerk, center, and African National Congress President Nelson Mandela, left offer to shake hands with Zulu Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi in Johannesburg on Saturday, Sept. 14, 1991, as black and white leaders gathered to sign a peace pact in a bid to end the political violence that has claimed hundreds of lives. (AP Photo/John Parkin)
The second letter that stands out in my mind was written just before his release, in which he laments the violence between our organisations and urges that we meet immediately upon his release. I agreed wholeheartedly, knowing that the message of reconciliation needed to filter down to the grassroots from the top.
My advocacy of non-violence, which I maintained throughout the ANC's People's War, had caused a schism between Inkatha and the ANC's mission-in-exile, when I refused to engage the armed struggle. I had been vilified for my stand, but I remained the champion of non-violence. I therefore welcomed Mandela's eagerness to end the bloodshed.
I regret, however, that a year passed before Mandela and I met, due to pressure he received from some ANC leaders.
When traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape asked Mandela why we had not yet met, considering our well-known friendship, he admitted that ANC leaders from KwaZulu Natal had “almost throttled” him.
But Mandela remained clear on his intention to stop the violence.
On the 25th of February 1990, Nelson Mandela addressed thousands of supporters at King's Park Stadium in Durban and said, “Take your guns, your knives and your pangas, and throw them into the sea.”
It was a message that many ANC supporters were loath to hear. But it was a call to return to the path of non-violence on which the liberation movement was founded.
When we did meet, on the 29th of January 1991, Mandela and I issued a joint statement committing ourselves to sharing a podium at joint rallies, to bring ANC and IFP supporters together and begin the process of reconciliation.
Unfortunately, due to pressure from ANC leaders, again Mandela could not fulfil that commitment.
Based on the interim Constitution, a Government of National Unity was formed after the April 1994 elections, and President Mandela appointed me as Minister of Home Affairs.
Whenever both he and Deputy President Mbeki were out of the country, President Mandela appointed me as Acting President of the Republic. I filled this position 22 times, and Mandela often jokingly referred to me as “Mr Acting President”.
In 2004, when my son, Prince Nelisuzulu Benedict, passed away, I took the unprecedented step of acknowledging in public that my son had succumbed to HIV/Aids. Shortly thereafter, Mandela's own grandson died and he emerged with enough courage to say that HIV/Aids had claimed another life. No other leader had spoken so forthrightly about Aids.
Not only did Aids carry a stigma, our culture did not allow us to talk about matters of sex.
But Mandela and I sought to de-stigmatise HIV/Aids so that more people would be tested, seek treatment and be willing to disclose their status to prospective partners. We gave the leadership in this fight, and I believe we saved lives.
For me, there is one pivotal moment in which Mandela's integrity was displayed.
This was in 2002, when he publically admitted, “We have used every ammunition to destroy (Buthelezi), but we failed. And he is still there. He is a formidable survivor. We cannot ignore him.”
The ANC has tried for years to remove me from the political landscape. President Zuma himself advised me, face to face, to step out of leadership.
But only Mandela has had the integrity to admit that the ANC wants to “destroy” me.
I am sure that if anyone knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of so much antipathy, it is Nelson Mandela.
But Mandela also knows, more than anyone else, what it is like to be loved as an international icon.
As we all get caught up in the spirit of Mandela Day, I hope that the lessons of peace and integrity truly create change.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP