JOHANNESBURG (CNN) — South Africans offered prayers at church services while the rest of the world awaited word Sunday on Nelson Mandela’s condition, a day after the ailing civil rights icon was rushed to the hospital yet again.
The office hasn’t offered a new update since informing the world Saturday that Mandela was in “serious but stable condition” at a Pretoria hospital with a recurring lung infection.
Visitors to the website of the South African president’s office got error messages Sunday.
Reached via e-mail Sunday, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told CNN he did not have an update to offer.
Mandela, 94, has become increasingly frail, and has been in and out of hospitals in recent years.
Each time he has done so, he has sparked concerns worldwide.
‘We will release him’
On Sunday, the front page of South Africa’s Sunday Times read, “It’s time to let him go.”
The paper quoted Mandela’s longtime friend Andrew Mlangeni as saying that the time may have come for South Africans to say goodbye to the beloved icon.
“You have been coming to the hospital too many times. Quite clearly you are not well and there is a possibility you might not be well again,” Mlangeni told the paper.
“Once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow. We will say thank you, God, you have given us this man, and we will release him too,” Mlangeni said.
Lawmaker invites ire
While lawmakers in South Africa and abroad tweeted their well wishes, Nick Griffin, the head of the far-right British National Party invited the anger of Twitter users when he called Mandela “a murdering old terrorist.”
“Saint #nelsonmandela on last legs it seems. Make sure to avoid BBC when the murdering old terrorist croaks. It’ll be nauseating,” he posted on Twitter on Saturday.
Mandela was hospitalized early Saturday after the state of his health deteriorated in the last few days, Maharaj said earlier.
Mandela was breathing on his own, Maharaj said.
Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, is at the hospital with him, sources told CNN. She canceled her plans to attend the Hunger Summit meeting in London on Saturday.
History of ailments
South Africa’s first black president gets round-the-clock care, and his house is retrofitted with medical equipment that mirrors that of an intensive care unit.
His history of lung problems dates to when he was a political prisoner on Robben Island during apartheid, and he has battled respiratory infections over the years.
Last year, he spent Christmas holidays undergoing treatment for a lung infection and gallstones, one of his longest hospital stays since his release from prison in 1990.
Considered the founding father of South Africa’s democracy, Mandela became an international figure while enduring 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid, the country’s system of racial segregation.
“He has taught us … that we enhance our own humanity when we serve and make a difference to other people’s lives,” Maharaj said. “It’s easy to serve oneself, own interests, but serving the interests of others, making their lives better changes the quality of all humanity.”
In 1993, Mandela and then-South African President F.W. de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Hero of democracy
The iconic leader was elected the nation’s first black president a year later, serving only one term, as he had promised.
He has not appeared in public since South Africa hosted the World Cup in 2010.
But despite rare public appearances in recent years, he retains his popularity and is considered a hero of democracy in the nation. Last year, South Africa launched a new batch of banknotes with a picture of a smiling Mandela on the front, a testament to his iconic status.
Mandela’s impact extends far beyond South African borders. After he left office, he mediated conflicts from Africa to the Middle East.
CNN’s Robyn Curnow reported from Johannesburg and Faith Karimi reported and wrote from Atlanta.