On September 1, Nelson Mandela was released from the hospital after an eighty-nine day stay and returned to his Johannesburg house. According to the presidency, Mandela’s condition “remains critical and at times unstable.” The presidency also said that Mandela’s medical team judged that he could continue to receive the same level of intensive care at his reconfigured house as in the hospital. The media say that Mandela is in no pain and responds to his surroundings, though he does not speak. The press also says that he is on a ventilator. Some South African media have speculated that Mandela has gone home for his “final days.” However, President Jacob Zuma and members of Mandela’s family are upbeat and contradict that assessment.
As has been true throughout Mandela’s illness, most of the news about his condition comes from the presidency rather than from his medical team or his family. From press reports it looks as though Mandela’s hospital intensive care unit has been replicated at his Johannesburg house. Hence the transfer probably does not indicate any significant change in Mandela’s battle with a lung infection. That said, he is ninety-five years old, which makes any prognosis about his health difficult.
As whenever there is news about Nelson Mandela, there has been a renewed outpouring of public affection and prayers. Nelson Mandela has become an important aspect of post-apartheid South African national identity right across racial, ethnic, religious, and class lines. In that sense he truly is “the father of his country.”