Family spat overshadows Madiba

Nelson Mandela spends his 26th day at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria.

A little girl is seen among messages of hope put up on a wall outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

PRETORIA - Former President Nelson Mandela's family legal squabble over gravesites has diverted much attention away from the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria where the he remains in a critical but stable condition.

Madiba is spending his 26th day in hospital for a recurring lung infection.

The sound of foreign languages crossing live to international media houses has slowly disappeared around the facility as the Mandela family spat in Qunu appears to be overshadowing the former president's hospital stay.

Activity around the facility is also waning, with no signs of the songs and dances by candlelight that has been seen over the past weeks.

Madiba's former physician Vejaynand Ramlakan spent about an hour at the hospital on Tuesday morning and while it appears no relatives arrived at the facility to visit, it is understood his wife Gra├ža Machel is sleeping at the hospital.

Members of the police's personal protection services made a turn past the tribute wall again, where they sang a hymn before returning to their offices about a block away.

Meanwhile, the mural outside the hospital continues to receive daily additions of cards, paintings and flowers wishing Madiba well.

This is Madiba's fourth hospitalisation since December last year.

PRAYER OUTSIDE LUTHULI HOUSE

The ANC has once again called for unity at a prayer service for Mandela in the Johannesburg city centre.

Businesses came to a halt for about an hour in the central business district while the ruling party held a prayer service for the 94-year-old outside the party's Luthuli House headquarters.

ANC National Chairperson Baleka Mbethe says South Africa is not ready to let go of Madiba.

"We love him and we want him to remain with us forever."

Mbethe says they will start putting up get well banners across the city, "So that all may continue to draw inspiration from him."

ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe says growing old is not a curse but a blessing and the ruling party is not tired of having an old leader.