'Prayers helped preserve Madiba's life'

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has once again thanked South Africans for their support.

FILE: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela leaving the Mediclinic Heart Hospital on 14 June 2013 after visiting former President Nelson Mandela. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Former President Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela says the support of the South African public has helped preserve Madiba's life.

Madikizela-Mandela was speaking at a national interfaith prayer service held in Madiba's honour at the Johannesburg City Hall on Sunday.

She said the family have planned a special celebration for the global icon's 95th birthday.

"Please join us on 18 July to celebrate his life which all of you have helped us preserve."

The global icon remains in a critical but stable condition in the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria for a recurring lung infection.

He is entering his sixth week in the facility.

Madikizela-Mandela said the prayers and warm wishes received from South Africans have demonstrated the love they have for him.

"The amount of love we have experienced and prayers we have received have been the greatest gift to the family."

Meanwhile, several religious leaders prayed for Madiba.

Reverend Frank Chikane from the South African Council of Churches says religious leaders will support the Mandela family during this difficult time.

"We express our support to [Madiba] and his family and also pray for him."

The Gauteng Council of Churches has arranged church services every Friday evening to pray for his recovery.

Reverend Gift Morane says members of the public need to support the Mandela family.

"This is really taking a toll on their lives. It is for us as faith leaders to pray that God will give them strength."

MADIBA COULD BE DISCHARGED

The Presidency has declined to comment on former President Thabo Mbeki's comments that Mandela could be discharged soon.

Speaking at a memorial lecture for former African National Congress (ANC) President Zaccheus Mahabane on Saturday, Mbeki said he believes Mandela's doctors will soon be sending the ailing statesman home to recuperate.

He said he knows Madiba's doctors, and they are doing an excellent job.

According to the Presidency's last update, Mandela continues to respond to treatment but his condition still remains critical.

Mandela's wife Gra├ža Machel on Friday told the public that she feels less anxious about her husband's health than she did a week ago.