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SA urged to pray for 'critical' Madiba

The Presidency has confirmed Nelson Mandela is in a critical condition.

FILE: Nelson Mandela at his homestead in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, two days before his 94th birthday. Picture: Lyoness.TV.

PRETORIA - South Africans are waking up to news that former President Nelson Mandela's condition has deteriorated and he is now "critical".

The Presidency released a statement confirming Mandela's new status on Sunday night.

Madiba was admitted to the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria just over two weeks ago with a recurring lung infection. He received treatment for the same condition during an extended hospital stay in December.

The statement said President Jacob Zuma and ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa were briefed on Mandela's condition when they visited him on Sunday evening. The medical team informed the two leaders that "the former President's condition had become critical over the past 24 hours."

Zuma was quoted as saying, "The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands."

Zuma and Ramaphosa also met Mandela's wife Graca Machel and discussed her husband's condition.

The Presidency's Mac Maharaj said, "We've consistently indicated in the past that his condition was serious; then at one stage we said he was stable. Over the past 24 hours the doctors said [his condition has taken] a downturn and has warranted them saying his condition is critical."

Government has assured the public doctors are doing their best to keep Madiba comfortable.

Maharaj said the Mandela family's privacy was paramount.

"We appeal to the public to maintain and have due regards for the issue of patient-doctor confidentiality and his privacy."

The African National Congress also "noted with concern" the latest update on Madiba's health.

The ANC's Jackson Mthembu urged South Africans to keep Mandela, his family and the medical team in their thoughts and prayers "during this time".

"We're worried and that's why we're praying for his family and for the doctors," said Mthembu.

Meanwhile, the news of Mandela's condition has sparked an increased in the media presence at the Pretoria Heart Hospital.

Security remains as tight as it was when he was admitted to the hospital more than two weeks ago, with police cars continually patrolling the area.

The 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon has been in hospital since 8 June, fighting a recurring lung infection.

This is his fourth time he has been admitted to hospital since December last year.

South Africans and people across the world have been urged to pray for the ailing statesman.