- Associated Press - Sunday, December 8, 2013

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Former South African President Nelson Mandela wasn’t on life support and had many family members and doctors close by in his final hours, a family friend who was at his bedside said Sunday.

Bantu Holomisa told The Associated Press that he had been called to Mr. Mandela’s home on Thursday by the family so he could visit the anti-apartheid icon before he died.

“You judge the mood in the house. I know the family. It was not the same family I used to see. Even the call itself, ‘Please pop in; we think Madiba is in his last days,’” Mr. Holomisa said. “I assume the family was warned by the doctors.”

The end came soon. The former president died about two hours after the departure of Mr. Holomisa, who was a former deputy minister in Mr. Mandela’s Cabinet.

Neither the Mandela family nor the South African government has released details on the final hours of Mr. Mandela or given a cause of death.

The account by Mr.  Holomisa, who says he had known Mr. Mandela since he stepped out of prison in 1990, sheds some light on Mr. Mandela’s condition as his life ebbed away and on the mood and scene inside the Mandela home at that time.

Mr. Holomisa said Mr. Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel; his former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela; one of Mr. Mandela’s daughters; and several of his grandchildren were in the house Thursday, where “somberness” prevailed.

Mr. Mandela, 95, had been in intensive care at his home in Johannesburg’s Houghton neighborhood since he was discharged on Sept. 1 from a hospital where he had spent nearly three months for a recurring lung infection.

Mr. Mandela appeared to be sleeping calmly, but Mr. Holomisa said that it was obvious that he was finally succumbing to illness.

“I’ve seen people who are on their last hours, and I could sense that he is now giving up,” said Mr. Holomisa, who is the leader of the United Democratic Movement in Parliament.

“You could see it is not Madiba anymore,” Mr. Holomisa added, using Mr. Mandela’s clan name.

Mr. Holomisa said he had seen Mr. Mandela earlier this year in the hospital.

“This time around, he was not on life support,” Mr. Holomisa said, adding that Mr. Mandela was lying on his bed. “I could see that his condition had deteriorated.”

Ms. Madikizela-Mandela said last month that her ex-husband was unable to speak because of tubes that kept his lungs clear of fluid, according to The Sunday Independent, a South African newspaper.

Mr. Holomisa said he spent almost an hour at Mr. Mandela’s home until around 7 p.m., or about two hours before Mr. Mandela died Thursday night.


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