Mandela on life support, Zuma cancels foreign trip

JOHANNESBURG: Nelson Mandela is on life support, unable to breathe on his own, an elder in the South African icon's clan said Wednesday, all but extinguishing hopes for the Anti-apartheid hero's recovery.

“Yes, he is using machines to breathe,” Napilisi Mandela told AFP after visit the much-loved 94 year old's bedside. “It is bad, but what can we do,”added the elder who usually presides over family rituals and meetings.

President Jacob Zuma late Wednesday abruptly cancelled a trip to neighbouring Mozambique after he too visited Mandela's Pretoria hospital, where he “found him to be still in a critical condition.”It is the first time Zuma has scrapped a public engagement since Mandela was hospitalised nearly three weeks ago.

“President Zuma was briefed by the doctors who are still doing everything they can to ensure his well-being,” a statement from the presidency said.

Twenty-hours earlier Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba had visited the Mediclinic Heart Hospital to pray with wife Graca Machel “at this hard time of watching and waiting”

Earlier Wednesday Zuma led delegates at a union conference in a rousing song evoking Mandela's role as a moral compass and leader of the struggle for freedom.

The South African president said that Mandela had spent his life “in dedication to humanity”.

In only her fifth ever tweet, Hillary Clinton offered “love and prayers to our great friend, Madiba, his family and his nation during this difficult time.”The White House has also sent its wishes but could not yet say whether his ill health would affect a planned visit by US President Barack Obama to South Africa from Friday as part of a tour of Africa.

Mandela's fragile state of health has sparked speculation that the tour could be halted, or radically changed, if the anti-apartheid icon passes away while Obama is on the continent.

South Africa's foreign minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane said that while Obama would have loved to see Mandela, a meeting with the former South African leader would be impossible.

Mandela -- whose 95th birthday is on July 18 -- has been hospitalised four times since December, mostly for a recurring lung infection dating back to his time in jail for sabotage against the apartheid government.

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