Two-weeks ago Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa and inspirational hero to many, went back into hospital. Mr Mandela, 94, was admitted to hospital earlier this year with lung problems. In early April he left hospital but began to be troubled again from a lung infection and an emergency hospital admission became necessary.
Saturday it was revealed that the ambulance which carried Nelson to hospital broke down on its way there, leaving some to question if this had worsened his condition.
Sunday media sources are reporting that Mr Mandela is now in a critical condition. The country's current leader usually tries to be upbeat about Mandela's health and many in the country will be distraught if he dies, but no person can live forever. He has had a tough life and living to 94 has to be an achievement for Mandiba.
"In a statement, President Jacob Zuma said Mr Mandela's doctors were "doing everything possible to get his condition to improve". "He is in good hands," said Mr Zuma" - BBC
The former president, Mr Mandela is often dubbed the "father of the nation" and, as such, news of his ill-health will be worrying for South Africans. Obviously his great age, plus the fact that no person is invincible means that any period of ill-health could end in death.
When the office of South African President Jacob Zuma announced the hospitalization early in June its representative Mac Maharaj said:
"President Jacob Zuma, on behalf of government and the nation, wishes Madiba a speedy recovery and requests the media and the public to respect the privacy of Madiba and his family," (Madiba is Mr Mandela's clan name)
Mandiba was moved to a hospital in Pretoria after his health took a turn for the worse. His condition had deterriorated and the hospital said his condition was serious but now stable. Only days ago it was announced his health had improved but during the last 24 hours this has changed.
It now seems that Mr Mandela's life could be slipping away.
Remembering Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela, born Rolihlahla Mandela, remains one of the most iconic anti-apartheid heroes, still alive today. As a child he was given the name Nelson by a school teacher. It was common practise in South Africa when Nelson was a child for teachers to give their black African pupils christian names. Yes, they were not even allowed the freedom to acknowledge their true identity.
His university education was not fulfilled as he was expelled after joining a student protest. Returning home he faced the wrath of his tribal leader and was threatened with a forced marriage unless he returned and completed his education.
Ever the rebel Mandela chose to run away to Johannesburg instead, working in mundane jobs and then returning to learning. By the 1940's Rolihlahla was becoming politically minded and he helped form the ANCY, African National Congress Youth League. By the late 40's the African National Congress was becoming a group "for action" and Nelson was a full-member of the group.
During the following decade Mr Mandela became part of a movement which was seeking to end white domination in his country. He became an unofficial ambassador for the ANC trying to raise funds and garner support from groups and people; in January 1962 he left South Africa visiting various countries, including England.
On his return to South Africa he was arrested charged with "leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike". For this "crime" he was sentenced to five-years in jail. There was worse to come though.
In October 1963 Mandela and fellow ANC activists were in court charged with sabotage. The government was determined to smash the ANC by whatever means possible. The accused, eight men in total, faced a possible death penalty but instead Mandela was sentenced to life in prison.
One of those sentenced was a white skinned man, Denis Goldberg. Even in prison segreation was the norm and he was sent to a whites-only prison. The others were sent to the infamous Robben Island.
Mandela had his day in court though and made what is now known as his famous ‘Speech from the Dock’ on April 20, 1964:
"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Throughout his years in prison Mandela stayed true to his beliefs. He was offered release three times but always with strings attached. He declined and when finally freedom came it was monumental.
On Sunday February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and into a different world. He was free and as t-shirts and more proclaimed his words he was,"Free at last".
Would this man have dreamed even in his wildest dreams that he would one day be President of South Africa? In prison he was just lucky to survive. Robben Island was known for its harsh oppressive treatment of prisoners. During his long incarceration various members of his family had died, including his mother and a son, but he was not allowed to attend their funerals.
In prison Mandela had various health problems including Tuberculosis in 1988. That disease and his work in the prison quarry damaged his lungs and will have led to his current health problems.
Rolihlahla Mandela has proved he is a special man over and over again. He is as we often say these days "one tough cookie". He has achieved so much by personal hardship and sacrifice.
Thoughts are with Mandiba and his loved ones.
I well remember his release from prison when the mood was one of hope. Working at Wilberforce House, in Hull, during the 80's, I saw the museum overhaul first-hand. As the birthplace of William Wilberforce, Britain's famous slavery abolitionist, it had new displays installed portraying the horrors of slave-ships and slavery. It became less of a house and more of a museum.
Its newly designed gardens were named the Mandela Gardens as it was a time when people were pushing for this man's freedom. One older man working at the museum asked "Why have they called the gardens after some black bloke who is in jail in Africa and not a local hero?"
These days few people are as ignorant about just who Nelson Mandela is and what he has done during his lifetime. Few also would not see the significance of naming a graden in such a house after Mandiba.
Sources and resources: Mandela Biography, BBC, Black Past