Mandela daughter says media 'racist' in coverage of ailing father

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Nelson Mandela's condition is "very critical" and "anything is imminent," his eldest daughter has said, while accusing foreign media of "racist" reporting.

Makaziwe Mandela, who is Mandela's oldest surviving child from his first marriage, told state broadcaster SABC in a candid interview Thursday that the South African anti-apartheid icon "doesn't look good."

"I'm not going to lie," she said. "But I think that for us, as his children and grandchildren, we still have this hope because when we talk to him he will flutter trying to open his eyes. When you touch him he still responds."

"For us as his progeny, as long as Tata [father] is still responding when we talk to him, when we touch him, that gives up hope."

The health of Mandela, 94, has deteriorated since he was rushed to hospital June 8 with what was described as a recurring lung infection. There are reports he is now on a life support machine, unable to breathe on his own.

President Jacob Zuma visited Mandela Thursday morning, after having paid a visit late Wednesday before deciding to cancel a planned trip to Mozambique for a regional government summit.

The latest statement from the South African presidency, the only official source of information about Mandela, said that the former president's condition "has improved during the course of the night," and that "he remains critical but is now stable."

"He is much better today than he was when I saw him last night," Zuma said, calling on South Africans to continue with daily life while Mandela remains hospitalized.

In the SABC interview, Makaziwe Mandela lashed out at "foreign media" for their coverage of her father's hospitalization, calling the crowds of reporters outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria a "nuisance" and "very crass."

"The fact that my dad is a global icon ... does not mean that people cannot respect the privacy and dignity of my dad," she said.

"I don't want to say this but I'm going to say it - there's sort of a racist element with many of the foreign media where they just cross boundaries."

"It's like, truly vultures waiting when the lion has devoured the buffalo, waiting there for the last carcass. That's the image that we have as a family."

Makaziwe wondered if the aggressive reporting was because "we are an African country."

"When Margaret Thatcher was sick in hospital, I didn't see this kind of media frenzy," she said.

Granddaughter Ndileka Mandela told reporters outside the hospital, where well-wishers have set up a makeshift tribute overflowing with handwritten messages and bouquets of flowers, that her family is "anxious."

"It's been hard, especially because of all of this - that we have to do everything in the public eye," she said.

The ruling African National Congress party on Thursday announced a series of public prayer sessions for Mandela, known here by his Xhosa clan name "Madiba."

"Whilst we have all been praying in our homes, private places and churches, the African National Congress will now be rolling out prayer sessions where all South Africans can come together, hold hands and pray for Madiba, his family and medical team," a statement said.