As Nelson Mandela's health remained critical for the fourth consecutive day, tribal leaders reportedly were warned to prepare for his death.
According to Sky News, senior tribal leaders, including Mandela's grandson Mandla Mandela, have been told to brace themselves "for the worst." On Tuesday, family members of the ailing statesman and several clan elders were said to have held an emergency meeting at Mandela's ancestral village.
Mandela, who is now reportedly on life support, has been in Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria since June 8; his health was declared critical on Sunday. Fears about the former South African president's fate have burgeoned since then, with people from around the globe offering prayers to the 94-year-old statesman.
South Africans have been especially hard hit by the news of Mandela's poor health, with flocks of well-wishers gathering in Pretoria and elsewhere to hold vigils for the anti-apartheid leader.
“We love him, but we know that there is a time when everyone has to take a bow,” Siya Cele, who joined others in song and prayer outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital Wednesday, told The New York Times. “Still, we would prefer that it did not happen inside a hospital.”
As South Africa braces itself for the possible demise of its beloved leader, Maite Nkoane Mashebane, the country's minister of international relations, has urged her countrymen to celebrate the inspiring man's life, instead of dwelling on his current sickness.
"We continue to wish the father of our nation well," she said, according to The Associated Press. "We are realistic about his age. We are also consciously aware of the fact that the doctors are saying he remains critical. But I am sure he would be very disappointed, if he hears that because he's very sick, life has stopped in South Africa."
Mashebane also said this week that Mandela will likely be unable to meet with Barack Obama when the U.S. president visits South Africa later this week. "President Obama would have loved to see president Mandela, but he is indisposed," she announced Tuesday.