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Prayer services for Madiba unite SA

Religious groups say holding prayer services for the former president gives South Africa hope.

Religious groups say holding prayer services for the former president gives South Africa hope. Picture:Renée de Villiers/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Religious groups said on Friday holding prayer services for former President Nelson Mandela across the nation not only unites people but also brings hope.

The former president was hospitalised on 8 June for a recurring lung infection.

Since he was admitted to the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria his condition has slowly deteriorated with the Presidency now saying Madiba is in a critical but stable condition on life support.

Dozens of people gathered at the Gauteng Legislature on Friday to pray for Madiba, who has now spent four weeks in hospital.

Reverend Gift Moerane said people feel uncertain and praying can bring various communities together.

"We don't know what's going to happen so praying is the only answer from the religious community that will always give us strength. God please give us strength that as a nation we will continue to do the work that Madiba started."

In Cape Town the National Assembly's Deputy Speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo said on Friday the former president is one of a kind and is in everyone's hearts.

Mfeketo was speaking at a special prayer service and vigil for Madiba at St George's Cathedral in the Cape Town CBD.

She said the thought of Madiba being unwell is unsettling and harrowing.

"This is not what we wish for our beloved hero. Who can ever forget that outstretched hand, ready to greet? Who can forget that contagious smile and warmth of the heart?"

Democratic Alliance (DA) Parliamentary Leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said it was a very touching service.

"It was wonderful that Parliament took up this opportunity to show solidarity with all of our constituents and as Members of Parliament and to come to this very iconic church to come and pay tribute to President Nelson Mandela. I think it was a wonderful service."

MADIBA'S HEALTH

Reports into Madiba's health on Friday reached high levels of confusion.

According to court documents released by news agency AFP, the ailing statesman is in a "vegetative state".

The papers also claim doctors have told Madiba's family to switch off life support machines to avoid further suffering.

The papers paint a picture of a frail man whose health has taken a turn for the worse. But this is in direct contrast with Mandela's wife Graça Machel, who on Thursday said her husband is doing fine.

In a statement released late on Thursday, the Presidency denied claims that Mandela was in a vegetative state.

The Presidency maintains the global icon is in a critical but stable condition.

MANDELA DAY

Meanwhile South Africans are gearing up for the biggest Mandela Day celebration yet and plan to go all out in honour of the global icon.

Madiba's birthday on 18 July has been dedicated to community work for at least 67 minutes in honour of Madiba's own 67 years of service to humanity.

Facebook and other social networking sites have posted various suggestions for Mandela Day ranging from making sandwiches for the homeless, joining a knitathon to make jerseys and blankets and donating blood.

In Cape Town David Jacobs said residents can spend the day packing 67 thousand meals for children.

"The most important time to feed a child is between the ages of zero and when their milk-teeth start to come out. That's the time their heads and brains are growing, their milk-teeth fall out and their permanent teeth begin to grow. It's really important to feed kids during this time and by having a good preschool programme and contributing to it, you're going to change South Africa."

People can also donate money to a brick, to help build the much anticipated Nelson Mandela Hospital in Johannesburg.

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