Nelson Mandela 'quite ill,' unable to speak, former wife says


Mandela in 2008. The Nobel peace laureate retired from public life in 2004.


Gareth Davies

Former South African President Nelson Mandela is still "quite ill" and unable to speak due to tubes that are keeping his lungs free of liquid, his former wife says.

But the anti-apartheid icon is relaxed and comfortable, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told the Sunday Independent.

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"He remains very sensitive to any germs, so he has to be kept literally sterile. The bedroom there (in his suburban Johannesburg home) is like an ICU ward," she said. "He is 95 years old and it is difficult for him, because of all the tubes that are in his mouth to clear the (fluid from his) lungs, and prevent an infection recurring." Because of those tubes, she said, he communicates through his face.

"But the doctors have told us they hope he will be able to recover his voice," she added.

Mandela is being treated by 22 doctors at his home.

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He's been receiving intensive medical treatment at his home in Johannesburg since being discharged from the hospital Sept. 1 following a three-month stay for a recurring lung infection.

Madikizela-Mandela shot down reports that the Nobel Peace Prize winner is on life support. 

Her comments come days before the release of a film based on Mandela's biography, "Long Walk to Freedom."