JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The health of former President Nelson Mandela, already critical, has deteriorated further in the past two days, according to a government official Thursday, as the nation prepared for his death.
As Mandela spent his 20th day in a hospital after contracting pneumonia early this month, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told state-owned SABC news that Mandela's condition had worsened, forcing President Jacob Zuma to cancel a trip to Mozambique on Thursday.
Zuma visited Mandela in the hospital late Wednesday, and subsequently decided to cancel the trip, a move seen as underscoring Mandela's fragility. It marked the first time that Zuma made a significant change in his official schedule because of the elder statesman's health.
A statement announcing the cancellation of the trip said doctors were "still doing everything they can to ensure [Mandela's] well-being."
South Africans have left messages of love and support outside the hospital, Mandela's home and on social media networks, but in recent days the tone has changed -- from hope for recovery to gratitude for what he has done for South Africa.